Sauntering with Dr. Brooke...

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I was sauntering out at MaClay Flats the other day and came upon some huge tree roots. You see, lately I have been thinking a lot about roots. Personally, I have been thinking not necessarily tree roots, but my own roots, where I’ve been, the culture I grew up in, the cultures I have been influenced by, the culture and roots I am giving my own children. I have been pondering how these roots affect the place where I am now in my life, the lessons learned, so that I can create the right culture for my family here in Missoula.

Professionally, as a staff it is a conversation we have been thinking about, too. During our professional development day last week, we learned about the roots of Montana, specifically about the Native tribes that lived here in this place 10,000 years before Euro-Americans even showed up. We learned about the history of three tribes, the Salish, the Pend d’ Orielle, and the Kootenai from Dr. Jeff Wiltse, a Professor of Native American Studies at the U of M. Our challenge now is to take that learning and teach our students in a developmentally appropriate way about the cultures and the people who came long before us. We also talked about our own cultures from our ancestors to the culture we are creating in our own families. We shared in empanadas, a food from South America (specifially Ecuador) that has influenced my own families’ culture, and talked about the importance of reflecting on our own cultures so we can be empathetic, inclusive, and interested in our students’ cultures.

As the new director of Clark Fork School, I have also been thinking about the roots of Clark Fork School. Why did it begin? What was the mission then? How has this evolved over the years? I am trying to learn what has influenced this culture in the past to learn and continue to create a great culture moving forward. In the past few months, I have observed, listened, learned, and tried to take it all in. There’s so much to learn about this place, Clark Fork School. I’ve even met with the founder, Rosie Buzzas, and found out the answers to these questions and so much more! I met with founding teacher Catherine Schuck and continued to learn about this “place” I am in. You see that is the beginning of place-based education and we want this same wondering, this same learning for our students, so they can understand the place where they are in this world in order to learn and appreciate the past and see how they can impact the future with the strengths they bring to this world.

I encourage you to read the history of Clark Fork School on our website. I was so inspired after meeting our founders and am excited we will be honoring them at our school auction on March 2, this school year. There is something important about knowing the history and those who went before you and this is really the roots of place-based education as well. We must learn about the place in which we live (physically and emotionally) so that we can have a deep care and love for it. I am honored to be standing on the shoulders of some incredible leaders who have gone before me and the more I learn, the more I love and care about this community.

I’ve been thinking been thinking about the current mission. Do you know the mission of our school? Our Mission: Clark Fork School is an educational cooperative where experience in nature and progressive, place -based curriculum foster academic excellence and connection to local and global communities. It’s a beautiful mission with so many possibilities.

As I am learning about this culture at Clark Fork School I am also learning about the amazing field of place-based education. Place based education is quite different than traditional education and even the progressive education movements I have been part of in my career with project based learning, Reggio inspired learning, and innovative literacy practices. At the end of the month, our early childhood day time parents will receive communication from teachers about how your child is progressing on the different standards in Place- Based Education. You will be able to see all the many academic standards we are teaching and also the many parts there are to Place-Based Education and it will be exciting to see all your child’s intentional teaching and learning that goes into each day here at Clark Fork School.

For those of you who are unsure about placed-based education, once you know more about it, you will see it in everything we do here at Clark Fork School. There are five parts to place based education: natural world, people created world, culture, civic engagement, and emotions. These five strands have benchmarks under each which our teachers (day and after school) teach each day. You can see these five strands in everything we do here at Clark Fork in our curriculum. Under the natural world come our saunters in the forest and experiencing and appreciating the nature around us in this beautiful place we call Missoula, Montana, under people created world we learn first hand about buses as we transport ourselves from place to place on roads, over bridges, and by markets and the city created by people, under culture, we reflect on our own culture and share and appreciate other cultures being open minded and empathetic, under civic engagement we support Animeals, help the Food bank, write letters to Santa Paks for the homeless, and visit nearby elderly in our community to name just a few, and under emotions we talk about these in every moment and in every lesson weaving the important social and emotional skills and learning into conflicts that arise as well, during teachable moments, and also during intentional lessons to help foster positive connection to each other and to the world around us.

The roots of Clark Fork school are alive and well with founder, Rosie Buzzas’ dream for a school that offers hands on experiential learning for the whole child. Presently at Clark Fork School we are truly trying to live our mission of being an education cooperative (partnering with parents) where experience in nature and progressive, place-based curriculum fosters academic excellence and connection to local and global communities. So, what will the future bring?

Learning the roots, the present happenings, allows us just like in place based education to look forward to see how we can make an impact on the future, and in this case the future of Clark Fork School. As the new director I have learned a lot about where we’ve been, learning daily where we are, and looking forward to dreaming big with you for the future of Clark Fork. We are currently in our second year of our strategic plan and making great progress. We will continue to work on this to see it through. In the meantime, an exciting new opportunity has come our way to possibly be in the position to purchase a piece of property nearby and with that comes lots of ideas and dreams. The board and I would like to welcome everyone to a community night of dreaming Tuesday, December 11, 2018 from 6:30-8:30 to brainstorm different ideas regarding this property and other dreams as far as programming. As your new director, I want to listen to your ideas, your thoughts, and hear your dreams as we rely on the roots of Clark Fork, live the present mission together, and dream big to the future possibilities of Clark Fork School. Let’s go sauntering together with open minds and open hearts as we dream big.