The Heights is a school where students are at home both in the great books and in the great outdoors. Lower school students not only recite poetry about roads diverging in a “yellow wood,” they often recite such poetry in the yellow woods themselves. For many years, students of the Valley have been especially at home learning in nature’s classroom. Natural history and camping trips have been staples of education at The Heights for many years. Indeed, education at The Heights is a living thing.
Living things adapt. This fall, the school has increased the breadth of its outdoor character, for students are breathing the open air even more frequently than in a normal year. In the Valley, the boys are taking it outdside with yoga mats, which afford them greater flexibility; any open space can be converted into a classroom. The trees of the Valley have become the boys’ classroom walls and the open spaces of campus their hallways.
In the middle and upper schools, teachers are taking advantage of the outdoor spaces to breathe a little fresh air into their classes. As the seniors delve into Plato’s Republic, they may find themselves emerging not only from the allegorical shadows of the cave, but also from the material walls of the classroom; the sun will be more than a mere metaphysical metaphor.
As the faculty and staff prepared campus for the return of students, they found themselves in a position not unlike that of a third grader, mastering the art of reading outside. (Mr. Tom Longano has written about this art on the Forum). Like a third grader seeking to uncover that perfect outdoor location to delve into his book, the faculty sought the best locations to erect tents for outdoor learning and meetings. The obstacles to opening were converted into opportunities to live out the school’s motto: crescite: grow! As a result, the open spaces of campus are now punctuated with covered locations for classes, study halls, and breaks.
As the boys continue to gather outdoors, these newly erected tents recall some grand festivity. It seems as if the campus were perpetually outfitted for a garden party. Although the traditional Fall Garden Party was cancelled this year, the opening of school was certainly something to celebrate; and, as the school year continues to unfold, we will continue to celebrate the gift of The Heights, smiling under our masks and converting the obstacles of each day into opportunities to respond to that original vocation of our first parents in the first garden: crescite!