CHELAN — As you stroll through Lakeside Park in Chelan, in one corner are several square tarps laid out with blankets on top and kids perched on lawn chairs.
Some kids are stretching out a measuring tape. Others are seated staring at laptops. Some are drawing.
It’s Roots Community School in the park. It’s a private school in Chelan with an enrollment of 66 students in kindergarten to seventh grade.
“Our purpose is to offer an opportunity in the valley with multi-age classrooms, teaching to the individual child with more hands-on learning,” said school Director Erin Fielding. “A big part of our school is project-based learning. It’s just a little different from what you might get elsewhere.”
Roots had to shut down last spring, like other schools, due to the pandemic. When it stretched into summer, Fielding said they decided they had to revamp what they were doing.
“We thought, How can we do that effectively to let kids be kids and be safe? Outdoors school was just a no-brainer,” she said.
Rachel Robison teaches fifth to seventh grade and has had her students designing theme parks. Her lesson plans are designed with the park in mind. “It’s calm here and not very crowded. Sometimes the ducks are a distraction,” Robison said.
Kelsey Bordner, who teaches third to fifth grade, said her students do get distracted sometimes, but it’s getting better.
“The more days they are here, the more they are ignoring the bird fluttering around or different noises. They will turn and look and then come back. They are getting used to the environment. It’s wonderful to have an in-person learning environment versus a virtual learning environment,” Bordner said.