Outside at Sudbury Valley

This afternoon I decide to spend some time outside. The weather is gorgeous and I’ve been inside all morning: making plans with a group of kids for Tie Dye Friday, staffing J.C., working with the Video Games Corp. as they write a motion to School Meeting, and changing the clay trap in the art room with Lisa the clay teacher.

First I swing a while with a new girl and we talk as we swing. Then I join some guys down by the pond and watch them fish and talk some more. When the last of the fishermen goes off to look for live bait, I sit on the porch steps and watch the world of SVS go by. A group of about twenty kids is playing soccer. Another group of about ten kids is playing a game on the grass between the barn and big tree, alternating sitting in a circle and talking with running big loops. I see a girl wander from the rocks and awhile later a group of her friends come down with bags of lunch. Kids are climbing the big tree.

A few teenagers come and go from the basketball court. The swinger’s mom comes to pick her up and they walk up to the parking lot together, talking. Two boys and their mom who look like they have just come from an interview amble slowly up the path from school to parking lot, watching the soccer game as they go. Then I see them return to school and walk back again slowly. I wonder if they are not so eager to leave. Now the girls from the rocks are on the swings. Other kids were on the upstairs porch over my head a little while ago.

It’s like this every day. Most days I don’t sit and watch or swing or hang out by the pond while people fish. When I did my own visiting week last spring I did. As a staff person I feel less sure I should be outside, though springtime at Sudbury Valley beckons through the windows, and even on days when I hardly venture out, I find myself luxuriating in the walk from parking lot to school in the morning and back again at night.

It strikes me that the place is always alive in this organic way that few schools are, with people moving, congregating, wandering, playing in ways that feel at once natural and rare. Boys and girls mix. Older kids and younger kids play together in organized sports and imaginative games. People talk all the time and quiet is also respected. The kids appear athletic and graceful, at ease and purposeful, active and kind.

Now there’s a guy from the soccer game riding his skateboard. Another soccer guy heads home. The game continues. There isn’t a need to stop and reorganize, or to end the game. The game feels fluid, as does the day.  The kids here know how to play together, how to organize and manage a game so that fighting is rare and most conflicts are things the kids move through with ease. Occasionally stuff gets to the point of a written complaint, to J.C. or to School Meeting for resolution, but mostly, the way life works at SVS is graceful compared to life on most school yards or playing fields where U.S. children spend their days.