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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Choosing a school for our children is much more complicated than it once was. In my mother’s day, her parents had only one choice – a one room school house. She rode her horse both ways – and the horse stayed for lunch.

My schools were always red brick. We sat in rows at our desk, facing the black board. The teacher talked. We listened. Period.

I attended public schools. The only other choice, that I was aware of, was the Catholic school. No one I knew went there.

In Charlotte, parents have many choices. Public schools now provide options with special magnet programs including language academies, STEM and STEAM, Montessori programs and more. There are home schools, private schools and that is only the start of a long list. The education styles range from a direct, teacher centered model, the style I grew up with, to an empowered, student-centered learning style.

I recently visited a unique school where sustainability, science, engineering, entrepreneurism, and community are being used as building blocks for our next generation. These blocks fit what I would look for if I could choose my school.

Davidson Green School are encouraged and enthusiastic about sharing their talents with others.
Davidson Green School students are encouraged and enthusiastic about sharing their talents with others.

Davidson Green School empowers students, from age three up through fifth grade, to learn how to be independent, creative, and responsible thinkers. That’s inspiring and it fits with what I want from education today.

I found Dr. Jennifer Jakubecy, the co-founder of Davidson Green School, beside her fellow educators, and 35 students, caring for the school, the community and the planet by “… leading with respect, working together on teams, problem solving with ingenuity and vision, and promoting a green future and green economy.”

Jennifer co-founded this school three years ago on a dream. She says, “I’ve been in education for years. I have taught, then taught others how to teach – then I decided to do it myself and start a school that would do it all – the way I knew best.

“Here at DGS we focus on creating an environment where children can foster the skills to be successful in life… creativity, innovation, problem solving, communication, collaboration, independence, intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and emotional intelligence. Because what we know is that the most important skills in life can’t be taught. Creativity can’t be taught. The most you can do is create an environment where these skills are nurtured and inspired, so that each individual child can grow into them. Yet, we also know, while these skills can’t be taught, they can definitely be prevented. In the wrong environment, an environment that centers around conformity, competition, and compliance, we prevent innovation, problem solving, and the rest of these important skills. Learning to read, and write, and do math are important too, but those are not what set you apart in life and or make you successful.”

Jennifer likes the world I am searching for in Choices Do Matter – kindness, care of the environment, fair rules, equitable compensation – because it lines up with the Davidson Green School world.

“The first four days of the week the students take time to talk about peace,” she explains/ Peace inside themselves, peace in our community, peace in the world, and so on. Then, on Friday, we talk about what we are thankful for, where gratitude has appeared in the week, and each child has quiet time to write in their gratitude journal.”

Davidson Green School students selling at Davidson Farmers MarketAs a former business owner, I was intrigued by the entrepreneurial spirit of the school. The students have started their own business, called Green Worms.

Under this label, they sell worm castings, worm tea (a liquid fertilizer for gardens), organic healing skin balm and lip balm, organic herbs, and potted perennial pollinator plants at the Davidson Farmers Market.

Construction of Davidson Green School's eco-domeThey produce and prepare their items inside the geodesic eco-dome. The eco-dome also houses the aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, the raising of tilapia and catfish, with hydroponics, the growing of food with no soil.

The benefits to the students from this enterprise are many.

“This unique program not only presents the students with many learning opportunities, but also sets DGS apart from other local schools by being on the cutting edge of technology and forward thinking in sustainability and engineering.There are many benefits of an aquaponic systems for study and use.  An aquaponics system is an ecosystem that students can study, create change in, and observe the changes in the system over time.  Students get to experience how organisms within an ecosystem depend on each other.  Students can analyze the water chemistry to determine if the bacteria within our ecosystem are active.  They can test the pH to determine if it is optimal for the plants, bacteria, worms, and fish; and then make adjustments to the system if needed. Students learn about dissolved oxygen within the system and the importance of it for the health of aquatic organisms. This knowledge can be applied to all water systems.  Other topics taught through aquaponics systems include:  sustainability, climate and agriculture, fish (life cycle, metabolism, and care), and plants (life cycle, classification, and seeds). Once the fish and produce are ready to harvest, they are donated to the Ada Jenkins’ food pantry, and students learn about supporting and giving back to the community.”

Exploring a streamDo you know the Davidson Green School, or schools like DGS?

What role do you think they play in education?

Let’s talk about why these students are better prepared for life than students in other schools?

Or do you have another opinion?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran

Epilogue

Enjoy a visit to the Davidson Green School.