The Experiential Education Learning Community (E²LC) is a network of nature- and community-oriented families who seek an educational experience that is holistic and grounded in a culture of respect and connection to self, others, and Earth, and ultimately fosters the wisdom and skills needed for lifelong learning.
We use the time-honored framework of permaculture, along with the 21st century best practices of agile management tools, to co-create an outdoor education and learning culture that will develop learners who are compassionate, socially active, ethically-grounded and prepared to contribute their unique gifts to the world.
What makes E²LC is unique?
- We are committed to a maximum ratio of 6 children to 1 adult. This means that, as we grow, we continue to add trained facilitators and there will always be multiple adults on hand.
- We flip the traditional facilitator model and focus on building the capacity of parents to make the most of their homeschooling time by equipping them with new tools and techniques. With weekly parent meetings and children coming together for 1 to 3 days/week, we are able to reinforce this support and the use of these techniques in community.
- Our trained facilitators have experience working in multiple methodologies. They work closely with families — and each other — to provide the most enriching experience for all children. Frequent meetings and a low child:facilitator ratio make this possible.
- We do not require co-oping from parents — you can drop your child(ren) off and use the time for working or errands or whatever else you need. Parents are always welcome, though, and are invited to participate whenever they wish.
- Families are joining a community of caring families as well as two separate alternative education networks: the PERMIE KIDs and the Agile Learning Center (ALC) community. These networks provide thought partners as well as the potential for learning exchanges and correspondence.
Thinking about joining our Learning Community?
There are three things you can do to get started:
1. Contact us to inquire about availability, how to “check out” the community, and the general registration process. Note: We are having a community meet ‘n greet from 3:00-5:00 p.m. August 19, 2017 at Carter Barron Park in DC. RSVP using the following form if you plan to attend:
2. Complete a short registration form
3. Put down a non-refundable deposit for the 2017-2018 academic year
Why, How and What We Do
Beginning mid-September, DC, MD and VA families with children ages 5-12 (whether homeschooled or not) can join our Learning Community for up to three days a week for outdoor nature and community-oriented experiential learning. This is a facilitated, drop-off experience. In order to help our children learn to co-create an intimate community culture of compassion and respect, we retain a 6:1 ratio of children to adults with a maximum of 15 children per day.
Our Learning Community integrates the framework of permaculture, which is the conscious creation of a regenerative design that reflects the inherent balance, stability, and harmony of nature, with the 21st century best practices of agile management tools. In combination, our children are supported in their exploration of themselves, relationships with others and Earth. Our children can learn to integrate the best of “me” into the “we” by developing the skills necessary for self-regulation, learning how to learn, and dive deep into reflection as an essential tools for lifelong learning.
This Learning Community might be right for your family if all the people involved (children are people too!) want to:
- Spend time outside
- Embrace the freedom and responsibility of being an active co-creator of a multi-age learning community
- Develop open and meaningful relationships with oneself, others and Earth
Our Educational Model
We use a tree metaphor to illustrate our E2LC educational model. Although some parts like the soil and roots are essential beliefs about learning which inform our practices, other parts like the branches provide a structural framework that we work from and the leaves and fruit are flexible and exist to serve the core of the tree. Just as deciduous tree leaves turn colors and are shed at times when needed, we remain open and flexible in choice and use of the most appropriate tools and practices that are needed to support the needs of our core community beliefs and practices.
The Soil // Relationships
We believe education is about reciprocity in relationships. Everything we do is about being a “thought partner” to help us remember what we all know, but may have forgotten — the ethical know how to use educational know how to cultivate relationships that help us bring our gifts into this world in ways that nourish life and help us know how to live together and in balance with our sacred Earth.
The Roots // 3 Ethics
All in Relation: Valuing natural resources is not enough. We must use whole systems thinking which honors natural relationships. We live in a world where the possibilities are only limited by our imagination and willingness to take action to transform the future.
Earth Care: The story is not one of learning to manage natural resources, but embracing and enriching natural relationships. Deeply loving Earth inspires us to take our place as responsible caretakers that honor our ancestors as well as our children’s children.
People Care: To move from the “me” to the “we,” children must first learn to love and honor their authentic self and find their bliss. That is what they then bring to enrich the relationship of “we” in this world.
The Branches // 12 Thinking Tools
Observe and Interact
Catch and Store Energy
Obtain a Yield
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Use and Value Resources
Produce No Waste
Design from Patterns to Details
Integrate Rather Than Segregate
Small and Slow Solutions
Use and Value Diversity
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
Use Creativity and Adapt to Change
The Leaves & Fruit // Agile Tools and Consciousness Practices
Set-the-Week Meeting (using an “Offerings Board”)
Remembrance, Reflection and Gratitude Circles (using a “Gameshifting Board”)
Community Change-Up Meetings (using the “Community Mastery Board”)
Big Questions and Personalized Learning Maps
What E2LC Learning Looks Like
Our learning community provides two drop-off facilitated days on Thursdays and Fridays and one parent-run day on Wednesday. Despite being at different locations these days, we use a common learning framework to guide the day and provide consistency for the children.
Wild Thursdays: Our children gather to explore, learn and share with our facilitator(s) from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at wooded parks throughout northern DC. This is an outdoor education experience, so our children are outside in all weather. However, we do have indoor facilities available that we can use as needed.
Homestead Fridays: Our children are at a permaculture-oriented homestead located near Cheltenham, MD with our facilitator(s) from 2:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. This place allows our children to learn about and interact with gardens, a food forest, chickens, honeybees, and much more. Families are invited to join the fun at the “end” of the facilitated day as we gather around a campfire for songs, stories, “barter blanket,” and a treat cooked over the open fire. There are opportunities for free play, star gazing, and old fashioned conversation. Periodically, families are invited to pitch a tent, stay for the night, and conclude the week with a hike on Saturday morning in the nearby woods.
In addition to the facilitated days, you are invited to come join us deep in the wild for Nature Play Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Yes, this is an invitation to come play!
Did you know all animals play? Play is a shared secular form of spirituality that can be used to connect with all living things on Earth. In the spirit of the words of Albert Einstein who said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” we understand that a playful connection with nature is also a path to helping us connect with ourselves and all our relations.
Our weekly Nature Play events occur at a variety of parks in northern DC and is a parent-organized experience. A responsible adult can attend with the child(ren) in which case there is no fee for participating this day. Some parents choose to arrange for another parent to watch their child(ren) and compensate one another in mutually agreed upon ways. However, the adult ratio must be no more than 6 children to every adult.
Come and let’s remember we are all wild things who love to play!
Our Educational Facilitators
Jen Mendez (M.Ed.) is the founder of PERMIE KIDs, a Community Supported Education (CSE) network of nature and community-oriented families, educators, artists and designers. Jen received her Masters in International Education and the International Baccalaureate Programme in 2008. She has worked as an educator in a traditional classroom within public, private and international schools in the US and abroad, as well as alternative education settings. Jen is now a homeschooling mother. She also serves on the board of directors for the Institute of Permaculture Education for Children (IPEC) and is certified in Permaculture Design. Jen specializes in helping people of all ages use what is uniquely present in their place to create resilient and regenerative “learning landscapes.”
Caroline Pettit Caroline is a scout leader, former camp director, mindfulness educator, and improv teacher/performer. She has worked with children of all ages- from nannying for infants to coordinating programming for college students. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia with a BS in Psychology and from the University of Michigan with an MA in Postsecondary and Higher Education. Caroline loves watching the learning children do naturally and using her skills to facilitate that learning. She loves both creative collaboration and quiet alone time. She loves her rabbit & fluffy dog, messing around on her violin, knitting, acting, and learning pretty much anything new!
Shelly Geske Bio coming soon!
What Does It Cost to Join?
First, if you have not yet attended a meet ‘n greet events please contact us to inquire about the next opportunity as we all the general registration process. We are a welcoming, open community that believes in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. However, as this is an outdoor-based Learning Community that uses a specific ethical framework and is committed to certain values, we want to talk with you to ensure this community is a good fit for you and your family before you formally register.
The next step is to register and put down a deposit. The following are the fees per child:
- $300/non-refundable deposit to secure a place in the co-op for the 2017-2018 academic year
- $4,860/year ($540/month) for two facilitated days or $2,565/year ($285/month) for a child who attends one facilitated day a week (due the first of every month from September-May; no monthly prorating)
Note: The parent-run Nature Play Wednesdays is free to attend with a responsible adult.