Helping an entire community (of people, cars, and deer) takes time. It happens in “eurekas” and “ah hahs”. During whispers in the playground cave and chats along the forest trail, plans are hatched and schemes are laid.
Ideas to help a community must incubate. Watching and listening is a slow gestation. Observations must be measured and intentional if lasting change is to be made. Two summers ago, the sixty children of Raintree’s Wildland Trek came together to discuss their greatest concern – “I sawed a deer. He was dead. A car killed that deer. I don’t like that,” said a concerned preschooler.
But concern alone is never enough. A pedagogy of place is an anchoring learning approach used at Raintree School. “Place- and community-based education has much in common with other contemporary efforts to link schools more firmly to their communities—efforts such as civic education, contextual education, service learning, environmental education, and workplace education. We have chosen to hang our hats on place- and community-based education because it is the only term that allows for the inclusion of both the human and the more-than-human, something we believe is essential if educators are to help students grapple with the messy and cross-disciplinary nature of humankind’s current dilemmas,” asserts Gregory A. Smith, Place- and Community-Based Education in Schools.
“More-than-human”…it takes time. Once the problem of deer-car collisions was identified, the children set to work researching. Are many deer hurt on the road to school or is that deer the only one? How did it die? Why are they hit by cars? After a week of research, the problem was clearer than ever. Lots of deer are hit, many are killed, in our town. “We have to stop that!” the children said. “We have to say, ‘you mommies and dads have to stop it,” the children encouraged. “We’ll go tell them!”
And tell them they have. They began a Save-the-Deer initiative to bring DeerDeter to Mason Road. From creating their own PSA to canvassing neighborhoods with informative postcards, they've worked to be proactive citizens. They recently spoke to the aldermen of Town & Country and gave a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on their DeerDeter proposal.