All-School Sing

- Written by Chris Wolf, Dean of Students - As I look ahead to being at Springhouse full-time this school year, there are many things I am looking forward to; leading a weekly all-school sing might be at the top of my list. There’s research out there on the physical and social benefits of singing regularly, but when I think about building community and fostering a sense of belonging, there are few practices that bring this home more palpably than singing, vulnerably raising our individual voices to create something bigger than ourselves that no one person could create on their own. There is a special heart-glow that comes from singing harmony together. I have sung all my life, and I look for

Servant Leadership

- Written by Dr. Jenny Finn, Head of School - The term servant leadership, coined by Robert Greenleaf in the late 1970s, turns hierarchical leadership on its head and offers us a deeper, wider definition of leadership that is rooted in creativity, trust, and humility. In the essay Servant Leadership and the Imaginative Life, author Michael Jones writes, “How often do we find there’s some significant, precious part of ourselves that somehow doesn’t go with us in the morning when we travel to work. It can’t seem to find its place in what we’re doing. In many ways it may be the most precious and - what might we say? - most gifted parts of ourselves that we have left out. There is no answer to t

All-School Sing

As I look ahead to being at Springhouse full-time this school year, there are many things I am looking forward to; leading a weekly all-school sing might be at the top of my list. There’s research out there on the physical and social benefits of singing regularly, but when I think about building community and fostering a sense of belonging, there are few practices that bring this home more palpably than singing, vulnerably raising our individual voices to create something bigger than ourselves that no one person could create on their own. There is a special heart-glow that comes from singing harmony together. I have sung all my life, and I look forward to sharing one of my great joys with th

Empathy for Earth

- Written by Ian Stabler, Springhouse Faculty - One of our values at Springhouse is connection to Earth. As beautiful an idea as this is, it can be hard to understand how to facilitate this for others. Unlike connection to self and other human beings, Earth connection cannot rely upon language and shared mindset as the catalyst for relationship. It can be hard to speak our way into community with our Earth as it rarely speaks English, and we cannot know with our rational minds what the Earth’s way of being looks like. As we try to understand how empathy and connection to Earth can be achieved, we must first find ways to circumvent our rational minds and delve into the depths of our primordia

Living Systems: A Pedagogical Approach

- Written by Ayla Mullen, Springhouse Faculty - Living Systems Theory understands living individuals and communities, from a single turtle to a school community, as complex systems defined by the relationships between their component parts. According to physicist and systems theorist Fritjof Capra, living systems thinking is a transdisciplinary mode of inquiry that seeks to understand how living individuals and communities work - by what relationships and interdependencies they sustain themselves, transform, and thrive. It values both quantitative and qualitative knowing, and most importantly, it re-situates relationship as the most essential component of any system. Springhouse recognizes i

The Wisdom of Letting Go

- Written by Dr. Jenny Finn, Head of School - Donella Meadows, author of Thinking in Systems: A Primer, suggests that the best way to create change in a system is to transcend paradigms. She suggests that we “keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms” and recognize that all paradigms are a “tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension” (2008, p. 164). The author writes that when we “listen to the universe” we live from a place of “radical empowerment” (2008, p. 164). Can we surrender to this degree and root our actions in the immense aliveness within? Margaret Wheatley, in her book Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Unce

Honoring the Individual Experience

- Written by Dr. Jenny Finn, Head of School - Honoring the individual experience is the first step as we try to facilitate a paradigm shift towards sustainable education. In his book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, philosopher John O’Donohue says, “each person is the custodian of a completely private, intimate world” (O’Donohue, 1997, p. 40). The inner life is so deeply personal and intimate. No other person on the planet will ever experience life exactly the way we do, and it is detrimental to ignore this rich inner life. Parker Palmer, a pioneer in recovering the heart of education, warns us that “if we don't start getting as concerned about educating that heart, that human inwardness

Emergent Learning is Engaged Learning

- Written by Haley Leopold, Lead Teacher - Traditionally, curriculum is paced and delivered according to established standards. The learning and subsequent results are pre-planned without allowing much room for learner-initiated exploration. After realizing that this was the norm in our current education system, I wondered, What if things were different? At Springhouse, we engage in learning that is different - learning that is emergent. A pedagogical approach commonly found in Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environments, emergent learning refers to education that is responsive rather than prescribed or predetermined. According to Elizabeth Jones, co-author of Emergent Curriculum, in her NA

“What Goes Around Comes Back Around”

- Written by Ayla Mullen, Springhouse Faculty - What does a sustainable community look like? We don’t have to look far for models of sustainable interdependence - healthy natural ecosystems are living examples of what it takes to sustain the web of life, and we have a lot to learn from these living systems as we work on building our own socially and ecologically sustainable communities. One of the biggest lessons of living systems, according to physicist and Systems Theorist Fritjof Capra, is that “both ecological communities and human communities derive their essential properties, and in fact their very existence, from their relationships.” Vibrant relationships within a community allow for

“If You Don’t Initiate the Young, They Will Burn Down the Village Just to Feel the Heat”

- Written by Sarah Merfeld, Community Life Coordinator - At Springhouse, we value healthy psycho-spiritual development. It is part of our mission to foster the healthy development of youth, young adults, and adults. We see that our society is struggling in many ways as we are faced with complex problems. One of these problems, writes depth psychologist and wilderness guide, Bill Plotkin, is that many adults in our culture are developmentally still in their adolescence. The implications of this lack of mature adults is that our teenagers do not receive proper guidance or support. We take heed in the warning of the African proverb: If you don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the villa

Transformation and Adulthood: The Emergence of Self

- Written by Dr. Jenny Finn, Head of School - There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the mother of all, natura naturans. ~Thomas Merton What does it take to step into something new? How do we learn to embrace change and open to possibility? This is a delicate process, as letting go of old ways of being can be disturbing, and unsettling. Out of fear of the unknown, we often simply resort to the comfortable. As adults, we can become more, and more, comfortable with past ways of knowing. The difference with adult learners, it seems, is that we have just had a longer period of

The World is Our Classroom

- Written by Chris Wolf, Dean of Students - At Springhouse, we envision a culture of lifelong learning where people feel true belonging to themselves, their community, and the Earth. We are reimagining what school looks like. Taking education outside the classroom and beyond the walls of the school is the only way we can build real connections with our community and the natural world. As a staff, we value the Earth as a teacher, a healer, and a source of inspiration, but there is also research demonstrating quantitative educational benefits of time spent outdoors. In 2010, the National Wildlife Foundation published a comprehensive report examining research that looks at the impact of time sp

Continuing the Conversation: Recovering the Sacred in Education

- Written by Dr. Jenny Finn, Head of School - Education becomes spiritual whenever a lesson - irrespective of the subject being taught - moves beyond a mundane level to grapple with issues surrounding the fundamental meaning and purpose of life. ~ Andrew Wright Learning When my son was in elementary school, one morning he said, “I don’t want to go to school. I hate learning.” This is from a child who held bees in his hand, knew how to weld, knitted scarves, and was a third-grader reading at the fifth or even sixth grade level. My son did not hate to learn. He did not want to learn in transmissive ways, where he is considered empty and needs to be filled with knowledge. He loved to learn in t

Creative Conversations, Intrinsic Paths and the Deep Dive Into Creative Learning

- Written by John Hildreth, Springhouse Board Member and Associate Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Radford University - I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Springhouse faculty Jenny Finn and Ezekiel Fugate a few years ago when they got involved in the outreach activities my department, the Center For Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), has been conducting in recent years at Radford University. It became evident that the educational values of Springhouse very much aligned with my own, as well as those of the CITL. In fall 2017, I had some conversations with Jenny about the Courageous Conversations class that was happening in spring 2018. She suggest

Walk and Touch Peace Every Moment

- Written by Jonathon Stalls, Founding Member Walk2Connect and Member of Springhouse Advisory Council - “Walk and touch peace every moment. Walk and touch happiness every moment. Each step brings a fresh breeze. Each step makes a flower bloom. Kiss the Earth with your feet. Bring the Earth your love and happiness. The Earth will be safe when we feel safe in ourselves.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh It started with a few good conversations with my dear friend Jenny Brady Finn of Springhouse Community School on the topic of leaving one’s front door and walking in one direction... for hours... or for days at a time. We dreamed. We planted seeds. We blocked the time. We combed through all the barriers and f

An Experience Week Trip

- Written by Billy Branks, Springhouse 7th Grade Learner - Every year Springhouse takes several experience week trips. We went on three trips this year. They are always to different places. We take these trips to learn real-world skills and to bond as a school. For our first trip of the year, we went to Mountain Lake in Giles County, Virginia. During our time at Mountain Lake, we went whitewater rafting down the New River. We paddled from class one to class four rapids. I went down a class one rapid when I wasn't in a raft just for fun. We made a pit stop near a cliff side. Some of us got out of the raft and climbed some rocks to get to the top of the cliff. After we got to the top of the cl

Why I Show Up at Springhouse

- Written by Ellie Duensing, Springhouse Board Member - I have had the honor and gift of engaging in Springhouse Community School in a variety of roles and contexts: as teacher, student and board member. I was invited to co-teach the Death and Dying class in the first year that Jenny Finn began to develop this program. We navigated the spectrum of literal and metaphorical death. We met death in a experiential sense by volunteering with Carillion NRV Hospice and Skyline Nursing Home. We immersed ourselves in the concept of death through exploring ritual, literature, and personal experience. I was amazed by the rawness and readiness that students and staff alike came to the class with. The wil

Mentoring at Springhouse

- Written by Lotus Billand-Yard, Springhouse Learner - My name is Lotus Billand Yard, and I’m an 8th grader here at Springhouse Community School. Mentoring is a one-on-one meeting to discuss academic issues and personal problems that are happening in the student's life. I meet once a week with my mentor. I also meet with a small group of people once a week, these people are also people who are mentored by my mentor. We meet and do group exercises to build relationships. This community has helped me grow to be more comfortable with my body and my feelings. My mentor is Haley Leopold. Haley has been my mentor for almost two years, and I don't know what I would do without her. I am surprised ho

Creating a Street/Skate Wear Clothing Brand

- Written by Skyler Locke, Springhouse Learner - One of my classes at Springhouse is Independent Project Studio. Springhouse is a project-based school, so kids have the freedom to pursue their passions. Some examples of student projects are photography, making pottery, dancing with aerial silks, and my own project: Creating a Street/Skate Wear Clothing Brand. My friend Ben and I are working on this clothing brand together. We design artwork and text to go onto tee shirts, and then we sell them. We came up with the name Masked and Dangerous, which is abbreviated as M.A.D. The brand is meant for teens and young adults who like fashion and streetwear. In the future, we will drop two releases of

What is Ridgelines?

- Written by Ben Pierce, Springhouse Learner - My name is Ben Pierce, and I'm a 9th grade student at Springhouse Community School. Ridgelines is a program at Springhouse to engage boys and provide them with guidance from young adults who are not their parents or teachers. It's a safe space to talk about their concerns and work through them and grow. It’s a program to find what is true, to challenge boys and ask them to take on responsibility, to develop boys into men that are strong, loving, respectful, creative, independent, and courageous. In Ridgelines we built a shelter down by the river at Spikenard Bee Sanctuary. We started by clearing the area with machetes and weed eaters. After that

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Springhouse Community School is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is also a community of people with respect for diversity. The school emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, students, family members, volunteers, subcontractors, and vendors. Springhouse is an equal opportunity employer. In accord with federal law and applicable Virginia statutes, the school does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political affiliation, disability, or status as a veteran in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the school.

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