We are happy to share this post by Rebecca Shaeffer, our current Board co-President. She along with Alanna Blecha, our other co-President, and our Parent Educator, Aimee Domire, led the meeting which unveiled our school's plan for expansion on the eve of our 75th Anniversary celebration.
Usually we hold our monthly Membership meetings in the “Imagination Station,” one of three rooms in our converted bungalow schoolhouse where the children’s dramatic play takes place. According to state regulations, a room of that size should only ever have 11 students in it at a time. During membership meetings, there are more than three times that many adults, perched on child-sized chairs for two hours a month learning how to guide and scaffold our children’s exploration and discerning business matters for the school as its collective owners and managers.
Last night, though, we knew the cramped (if charming) conditions of our current classrooms wouldn’t do. We needed to be out under the stars, around the campfire – where our children and their co-oping parents gather 'round the flames during the school day in all kinds of weather -- planning their play, building structures, making magic spells out of acorns and bits of old tires. Where we now, their parents and teachers, dream and draft blueprints for future realities, no limit but the canopy of trees above us, because last night was about getting bigger than our beloved purple house. You know the unifying principle of transformation, “grow or die?” There is only one choice. Like the saplings our Tracks class plant each year, like the children we raise, we must grow.
Member presidents, present and past, reached deep into our school’s 75 year history to invoke our founding families, who gathered in 1942, in the midst of a world at war with itself, to build a school that was intended not only to teach children but also to strengthen the links between families, to cultivate a practice of self-governance that would build a community resilient to the horrors common to that age. And to ours. Our mission remains urgent: to safeguard a space of play, of creation, and of curiosity in early childhood. We need a much, much bigger space for that in our world, and in our town, and in the length of children's lives. We all depend on it, in every age.
Nature, play and arts-based learning enriched by the embrace of families working in cooperation shouldn’t end at age 5. It shouldn’t be limited to a one-room school house where children can only attend part-time. The founders of our school always had a more expansive vision than that, and in previous spaces, precarious as our leases may have been, we were able to offer full day programs and room for children to run. It’s time for us to take up that mantle again and build a school as big as our reach.
The moment is now, at our 75th year anniversary, to close the loop between the past (our foregoing alumi families) and the future families, who will bear the fruits of our visioning around the fire last night. That’s why we are having our “Homecoming” this weekend, calling home all of the families who made their mark, sustained our vision and held our families together in common cause through the generations. Because it is going to take ALL of us to build the school of our collective, inter-generational dreaming.
Our past and current members visioned the elements of our plan, which include a forest play yard, a teaching kitchen, a woodshop, an atelier, a kiln, and a kindergarten, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade! Our collective dreaming invokes a center for training teachers and parents as well as college students, community leaders, and educational advocates. It is a deeper entrenchment of our inclusive-of-all-learners educational model, conflict resolution training for the community, and summer camps that engage (and employ) our older children.
Each member whispered a wish onto a paper crane and threw it into the fire, transforming it as we will transform the building we find into the Takoma Park Cooperative School of the next 75 years.
This year, we make those dreams into reality. Come join us. There's a seat for you at the campfire.