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Nature-based school will feature a yurt (5 photos)

Pinecone Academy will have space for about 10 pre-Kindergarten to six-year-old students

A new school dedicated to a balance of nature, academics and Indigenous learning opens its doors Wednesday just west of Massey.

After months of planning, the Pinecone Academy will open to about 10 pre-Kindergarten to six-year-old students in its initial phase with plans for further expansion of programs and facilities.

The academy is the brainchild of friends Kendra Rogers an avid environmentalist and biologist and Stacie Minten noted for her artistic talent and is fashioned along the same lines as Forest and Waldorf educational schools.

Pinecone Academy is being established on a 60-acre property at 1210 Highway 17 west of Massey.

A centrepiece for the academy is a 26-foot yurt, a tent-like building common in Europe for multi-use purposes. The yurt will be set up in about two weeks. Its raising was delayed by recent unseasonable wind storms the area has experienced this summer.

Slight modifications were made to the structure to strengthen it to withstand strong windstorms, according to Rogers. On the grounds there will also be a meditation centre, Sweat Lodge and teepee as part of the Indigenous learning program.

A meal area and eventually a track and ball diamond will be added. An area has been set up for traditional fires and a garden area.

“We’re an outdoor-based learning centre,” Rogers said during an open house held on Saturday.

And with 60 acres of fields, bush and wetland it is suited to the outdoor learning the friends envision.

The open house featured complete interactive kid stations, a kids yoga class, Dragon’s Sneeze Playshop, door prize, art raffle, BBQ and vendor tables. Many of the prizes were donated by local businesses and artists. 

It also gave visitors a chance to see the development of the initiative that has been made possible through fundraising efforts and a GoFundMe site. It also gave parents and kids a chance to meet the educators and obtain registration information, and learn about this type of educational option.

The partners pride themselves on the strong community support already received, including some $5,000 raised through a GoFundMe site and $4,000 from community support and their own fundraising. That money has been earmarked toward the $35,000 cost for the yurt and land preparation, including the wood platform it is being built on.

The yurt will be used during inclement weather and as a cooling area during the warm summer months.

“Most of our learning will be outside and in the summer students can go in the yurt to cool down,” Rogers said. “It’s always been my ambition to open a forest school,” Rogers said.

She also has level three training in forest school operations.

The decision to set up the academy and partner with Minten was inspired by their two young sons.

A lot of community members have come together to assist in the venture. Teachers are also volunteering their time for instruction at the various educational levels, nature and Indigenous teachings. Eventually, a board will be set up of community members as the academy expands to have students up to Grade 8.

With the experience of COVID and online learning, Rogers said the forest school concept is a viable alternative for students who have experienced the mental trauma of not being able to attend school with their friends.

Learning pods of Canada is a wonderful source, Rogers added, referring to a website people can view to decide if they want to opt for this educational option.

Rogers said the cost is $25 for half-day $50 full day and right now it’s Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Eventually, the academy will go to full-time learning.

For information on the academy go to [email protected]


About the Author: Kris Svela

Kris Svela has worked in community newspapers for the past 36 years covering politics, human interest, courts, municipal councils, and the wide range of other topics of community interest
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