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Cooperative School Provides Holistic Education

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It is not often that a preschool/early education school has such a profound impact on a student’s life that they write about it on college applications 13 years later. Eight Columbia Kids Preschool/Sprouting Seeds School alumni who are graduating from high school throughout the county this year, began their education journey at this little ground-breaking school nestled in Battle Ground.

Columbia Kids Preschool (CKP) is a cooperative, where parents assist in the classroom and with every aspect of running the school along with teacher, Virginia Triplett. Virginia has been teaching at Clark College for 30 years and passes on her early childhood development and positive parenting techniques to CKP families through four classes each quarter. That same parent involvement, sense of community and continued education is what led parents to create Sprouting Seeds.

Started 13 years ago by parents enrolled in CKP, Sprouting Seeds was the brainchild of eight moms with kindergartners and teachers, Virginia Triplett and Janine Carr, willing to create something completely different.

“None of us was ready to send our child off,” Nettie Pullella-Barca, a founding parent of Sprouting Seeds said. “All of us loved our community of families at Columbia Kids, and we did not want to give that up either. I think for me, it was like-minded educated people who were choosing to give our kids more time to grow, explore, run free, and learn through engaging fully by doing everything ‘hands-on.’ And, we all wanted to be intimately part of this.”

Janine Carr, an author and teacher, also had a kindergartner at the time; who is now a graduating senior at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics.

“Often times in public schools, the majority of the time is spent simply preparing for the next test, or state standard that a student must meet, or insuring they will pass the vast number of required state assessments,” senior Matthew Carr said. “Sprouting Seeds engages students to really love learning and the process of researching, discovering and immersing ones self in new information. That philosophy has stayed with me to this day, and I still love diving into learning and discovering the world around us.”

Sprouting Seeds is for children from 5 to 12-years-old and meets two afternoons a week. The younger children meet on Tuesdays and the Olders on Wednesdays, and all the children work together on Fridays. At Sprouting Seeds, the children vote on a study subject for each of the three quarters in a year. Parents then work with the two teachers to create the curriculum.

“Math skills and Oregon Trail history were learned in our semester long Pioneer study,” Nettie Pullella-Barca said. “The kids made aprons with help from a working parent, and made berry cobbler in a cast iron pot over a (charcoal) fire. When they showed up to school, at free time they would organize the large wooden blocks into “wagon trains”, dressing in the pioneer clothes that were available for that study. They practiced writing and math on their own little chalkboards and journals in little books they made.”

“For our unit study on Farm to Table, instead of our normal snack at the end of the day that parents provided, we washed our hands, donned aprons, grabbed knives and made our own food,” Vancouver iTech Preparatory senior and founding Sprouting Seeds student Astrid DuBois remembered.

Teacher Janine Carr is responsible for the reading and writing in the little school’s upstairs classrooms. Virginia Triplett usually tackles the big hands on artwork and experiments downstairs.

“In our school building [Sprouting Seeds], there is a stair case that curves upstairs, except it isn’t a staircase,” Vancouver iTech senior and founding Sprouting Seeds student Sequoia Pullella-Barca said. “It is a jungle, painstakingly painted with Q-tip pointillism. I remember painting the sloth, finding great joy in adding green to its gray back, because I had just learned that moss grows on sloths. During our Rain forest study we created jungle of artwork to envelop the workspace. I loved learning through my hands, and visual exploration. Art is expression, the purest way to reiterate one’s learning.”

Every parent is responsible for working in the classroom throughout the quarter and developing and teaching one Friday project a year. Those projects embroider learning in fun, creative endeavors.

“I will always remember the concluding performance for the Ocean study: The Ocean Opera!” Astrid DuBois said. “In preparation we spent an entire day at school singing everything we said. Our building was filled with melodic (for the most part) voices asking for the scissors, explaining which animals lived in the different oceanic zones, calling students to snack, writing scripts and telling stories.”

Now about half of the families in Sprouting Seeds homeschool for part of those formative years, while others attend public school and Seeds simultaneously. In the beginning, many of the families chose Sprouting Seeds as their primary school.

“This was my daughter’s school for five years,” said Nettie Pullella-Barca. “The classmates were her best friends and the families extensions of her own. Not going to public school until fifth grade did not slow her or any of our kids academically; in fact it did the opposite. It gave them years of learning about being kind, helping younger kids, and understanding that learning is a pleasure. It also gave them the ability to think for themselves and not follow the crowd, to know their voices always mattered, and they were cared deeply for by their community. When I look back on my daughter Sequoia’s path through school, I know it was exactly the right one.”

To support this ground-breaking school, please consider attending the school’s auction: Saturday, February 25, 2017. Tickets are $35 per person ($30 if purchased by February 3) and include dinner. Go to http://columbiakids.org under the “events” tab to purchase your tickets.

If you would like to make a financial contribution without attending the auction, you can also go to http://columbiakids.org. The school is a non-profit and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards keeping the program running.

Contributed by Deanna Woolston and Columbia Kids Preschool. 

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Vancouver Family Magazine is a monthly family magazine with a mission to strengthen a sense of community by providing Southwest Washington families with comprehensive and locally based resources and information regarding parenting, education, news, community events and personalities, recreation, and more.

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