Gratitude Celebration 47: Creative Freedom

When I left the Waldorf School of Atlanta, believing that I had no choice but to resign from my position of Class Teacher of Grade One, I was devastated! My self-esteem plummeted to the floor, and I doubted that I could ever teach again! Thanks for my sister-in-law, Deborah, a door opened to a new possibility.

“You could talk with Deron Davis over at Dunwoody Nature Center. He’s the director there, and probably could use teachers who love the outdoors,”  she suggested when I shared my plight with her.  I set a time to meet him within a week. He, indeed, was delighted to meet me, and practically gave me a job that same day! “I definitely need someone who could take this idea I have and run with it.” He took me over to Brook Run Park, which the County had just purchased, and showed me a musty building with a beautiful deck that overlooked a dense forest. “I’m trying to get this area to use as a demonstration of Outdoor Education. I need a lead teacher, someone who can create a program over here for the summer.”

“I could do that!” I responded instantly. As soon as I saw the place, with its ideal layout and compelling loop of trails through the woods, my mind starting racing with program ideas. Within a month, the program was underway. I taught four weeks of summer camp, having co-teachers each week. The classes were a great success, and Brook Run became a satellite camp for the overflowing programs at the Dunwoody Nature Center.  In contrast to the creative roadblocks I had encountered at the Waldorf School, Deron loved all my ideas and I had a blast creating hands-on outdoor learning for the 8-10 year olds.

The next summer, Deron’s position had been filled by Claire Hayes, who turned out to be equally thrilled with my artistic, sensory approach to science education for children. Once again, I thrived in that environment where my methods were supported, and for the next five summers, spent four weeks at Brook Run, teaching 8-10 year olds about the forest, or animals, or native Americans, or science through hands-on explorations in the nearby forest.

One of my favorite activities, which I tried to do with every group, was called The Basement of The Forest. I would lead the campers to one section of the stream that flowed in a 6-foot deep eroded ditch between a footbridge and a culvert. It was a little spooky as we descended deeper and deeper beneath the surface, climbing under roots and seeing the layers of the soil right next to our heads. Exiting the stream by clambering through the five-foot high culvert was a thrillingly memorable experience. Some of the campers even talked their parents into coming back out to camp to see The Basement of The Forest!

Today, I want to thank Deborah for opening a door to my favorite kind of education and Deron and Claire for providing the canvas plus the creative freedom for me to express my own brand of Nature Education – experiential, sensory, and holistic! Hundreds of happy children thank you too!

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Resources in this post:

The Dunwoody Nature Center

Deron Davis has moved on to great things! He’s now the Executive Director of the Georgia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy! Congratulations, Deron! So glad I had the privelege of working with you at Dunwoody Nature Center. Here’s a link to The Nature Conservancy.

Claire Hayes has also moved on from Dunwoody Nature Center and is now the Director of Woodlands Garden, a unique preserve in the residential area of Decatur, Georgia.

Posted in Sixty Years of Gratitude.

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