FLORA: Quality Through Innovative Programming
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
From the New School Development Team
“This reminds me of my childhood!” a grandmother says as she’s escorted through the Fairy Garden by her twin preschoolers. As they weave their way through the labyrinth, past the waddle fort, tire swing, and tree house, she is implored to, “Try this, Grandma!” Little hands hold up leaves for a mid-morning snack: dock, kale, peppermint, orache, mustard, and goosefoot rolled into burrito greens. “Delicious!” she grins through the multiple flavors. In this Nature Play Garden, children from nine months to twelve years cycle into this nearly quarter-acre slice of feral drainage. The kids are free to climb trees, build forts, make bridges tie up ropes to swing on, plant vegetables and forage from wild plants. The entire garden is a living classroom that is always changing; a shifting mosaic of learning moments.
These children attend the Forest Laboratory of Regenerative Arts (FLORA), an Originateve Holistic Learning Designs concept school. Currently there are three such enriched environments in the Denver area with hopes of expanding. “It’s their [the kids’] job to play, it’s my job to track and assess the explosion of learning and emotional growth happening with every individual,” comments Rudionna Garza, a Certified Mentor of Holistic Instruction, as she and three students pick Japanese beetles off a Siberian Elm tree to feed to local chickens. Growth is right. The Originateve team continues to document accelerated growth in all demographics, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. The founders were initially aiming for the interactive play and horticulture space to provide STEM enrichment into schools looking for support. The hands-on, open-ended living classrooms have proved to be remarkably effective in treating behavioral concerns and trauma. Maybe Grandma got more than grass stains and skinned knees from playing outside!
Contributed by Ron Green
For more information on Denver’s FLORA programming, click here. For more information on Originateve practices, click here. Check out a video of the summer programming here.