By Marcy Stamper
The Methow Valley Community School is starting its 18th year with new staff and a focus on home and community as its theme for expeditionary learning.
Michaela Precourt, who has a background in outdoor education and instruction of the whole child, has been hired to teach grades one through four. She also will also lead music, art and outdoor activities for all students.
Precourt taught most recently in Bend, Oregon, but has spent the past several summers at the Northwest Outward Bound School in Mazama. She has also led outdoor education for Outward Bound in Alaska, China, Australia and New Zealand.
Precourt has a master’s degree in elementary education and a certification in Waldorf Education, which takes a holistic approach to education, integrating the arts and inspiring a child’s own curiosity to instill an enthusiasm for learning.
The Community School will continue to build on its tradition of experiential education and project-based learning, which emphasizes outdoor lessons and inquiry. Each year, the school develops the entire curriculum around a theme, blending practical education and academics.
The theme of home and community will start with the school and branch out to encompass the history of the Methow Valley and its people. Students will also learn about the natural environment, including soil and plant science, Precourt said.
Precourt will teach music and art, including sewing, crocheting, felting, rhythm and movement. Students will have instruction in yoga and mindfulness, said executive director Allison Ciancibelli, who said she is “very optimistic” about the coming year.
The Locavore farm-to-table program will continue, with students planting, weeding and harvesting at Red Shed Produce.
In the spring, the school will participate in the Down to Earth expedition Precourt developed to teach children about climate change. Precourt and a group of specialists from various disciplines will travel to Greenland and lead classes via video for schools around the country.
Seeing what life is like for children and people in arctic zones helps make climate science more vivid, said Precourt. Students will have pen pals at schools in Greenland. “We want to instill wonder and curiosity and teach about climate science in a beautiful way, not a scared way,” she said.
The Community School is currently enrolling students and has scholarships available. Fifth and sixth graders will work with the teaching staff to design independent projects. A second teacher may be hired if enrollment supports it, said Ciancibelli.
School starts on Sept. 5. To enroll or for more information, visit www.mvcommunityschool.org or call 997-4447.
A film about the Down to Earth project, entitled “Down to Earth – Chapter I: Hope,” will have its premiere at the Mountainfilm Festival in Mazama on August 26.