New Orleans youth visit Yestermorrow.

The Yestermorrow campus is generally brimming with all sorts of folk, but most days an astute observer may notice a genuine dearth of children. Not the case the last week in April when we were blessed with not one, not two, but five child visitors ranging in age from 12-16. The kids were part of a group from New Orleans called Rethink, and were here in Vermont to gather ideas for their entry in a competition to design a new "Oil Free School" in their community.

Rethink began in early 2006 when a group of community organizers, artists, architects, media experts and educators came together to help give middle school students a voice in redesigning and rebuilding their schools post-Katrina. Students from New Orleans were scattered across the country for six months to a year after Katrina, and in the words of these students, “for the first time most of us saw bathrooms with toilet paper and soap, libraries with books and hallways with lockers. It made us realize what good schools actually look like.” Our five visiting students and two leaders are part of a growing group of Rethinkers in New Orleans who are redesigning schools and implementing school-based projects that promote respect, communication, justice and sustainability.

Despite some pesky spring rain showers, George, Ory, Alana, Vernard, and Ashley, along with leaders Mallory and Dominique, spent the morning exploring Yestermorrow alongside interns Malena Marvin and Gillian Davis. Although the kids were eager to discuss the different ways we Yestermorrowans are harnessing the sun's energy (photovoltaics, solar hot water, outdoor shower batch heater, garden cold frames), they were most exuberantly interested in touching the seasonal creek flowing out of the spring near the cabins. It was amazing to see their delight with the clear, cool water we so often take for granted. They were particularly enthused by the tree house, and so we spent some time under its cover connecting with the sounds and feel of a rainy spring day in Vermont, a notable contrast from their familiar southern city. We explored natural building practices such as strawbale and cob, the smile-inducing term “humanure”, took a look at our garden bursting with tiny greens, and had a great time feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, and mastering the art of the rooster call.

In the afternoon the talented middle-schoolers headed to the woodshop where they practiced using tape measures, squares, saws and drills to construct a new cold frame for our garden. Our woodshop Fun Meter traveled from "Boo" to "Woo" as the children completed the project successfully, and we brought the day to a close with a bit of reflection on what we appreciated most about the visit.

We were all truly impressed with the students’ curiosity, energy, and bright spirits, and look forward to seeing how they design their Oil Free School. We were also reminded of how inspiring and uplifting it is to have young people lending their fresh ideas and frank curiosity to our community.

Gillian Davis

George attaches the corner board.

Woodshop enthusiasm boosts our fun meter from 'boo' to 'woo'!

The cold frame starts to come together.

photo cred: Malena Marvin