A Classroom Without Walls

Today I went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom, and wow, I was blown away by the work people have done to get this project off the ground. PPOC is an outdoor learning center owned and operated by the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns. The land that this center uses — 40 acres of gorgeous woodland and wetland — was once largely unused except for a few athletic fields. A few years ago, during an intense community debate about what to do with this school-owned property, Tracy Brown, Katie Scully, and Sonia Crawley conceived of a plan to turn it into a natural space for learning. Since then, volunteers and community partners have created a network of trails that make it possible for groups of school kids to come in and do everything from science experiments to hiking and art projects. We even came across an on-site experiment being done by a high school forensics class: They cordoned-off some road-kill animals with a milk crate and are studying their decomposition. Gnarly! There’s no end to the kind of discoveries that students can make using this natural space as their classroom. None of this would have been possible without huge support from the school system, including our Superintendent Clouet.

As I listed to students describe the work they’ve done in this new classroom without walls, and as I walked the trails with the people who worked so hard to preserve this space, I was filled with pride in our community. It’s also exciting to think about all the possibilities for tandem projects with PPOC and TNC; we have so many values in common when it comes to what the children of our community need to thrive. I am so looking forward to bringing my Friday after school group here for nature play. They’re going to love the enormous rocks and the quiet pond. Huge, huge thanks to everyone who made this space a reality. I truly appreciate the contribution to our community. I think this is only the beginning of something that will continue to take root and blossom.

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