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Forest Trees

Journey of SOL

S - Sacred

O - ONEness, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence

L - Love

A village of life-long learners, who embrace a holistic and integrative approach to experience the purposeful and passionate flow of life through relations and the natural world, is empowered to foster compassion, gratitude, connection, awareness, generosity, kindness, self-acceptance, self-trust, self-motivation, self-reliance, local & global engagement, and the responsible embracement of personal and social stewardship of this planet. 
Learn more about SOL Gratitude Village Education Center here. 
8-Shield Mentoring for Youth, Parents & Educators/Mentors/Coaches/Leaders
The 8-Shields mentoring model, developed by Jon Young, is a holistic framework designed to foster deep nature connection, personal growth, and community building. It draws inspiration from indigenous wisdom and natural cycles, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to mentoring that addresses physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of learning. The model is structured around eight interconnected phases, or "shields," each representing different aspects of human experience and development.

8-Shields Model consisted of the following principles:

  1. Cultural Mentoring: Integrating cultural elements and storytelling to provide context and depth to the learning experience.

  2. Nature Connection: Emphasizing direct experiences with nature to foster a deep, personal connection with the environment.

  3. Holistic Approach: Addressing multiple aspects of human development, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.

  4. Community Building: Fostering strong, supportive relationships within the group and the larger community.

Integrative pedagogical approaches: Montessori, Reggio-Emilia
Erdkinder - The Montessori Answer To Youth & Adolescence

If you needed to, could you build a home to live in? Could you cook a whole, nutritious meal from scratch? Could you sew clothing for your family if department stores disappeared? If there was a local or national disaster, could your community feed itself and access clean water or are they dependent on other regions, as are most urban areas, for these very basics of life? If it was up to you to see to your own survival, how do you think you'd make out?

The truth for most of us is that we graduated from public high schools that let us walk out their doors with so few skills for actual human living, we'd last about a month if we found ourselves set down on a rural farm. Even if we studied textbook geometry, we'd be scratching our heads trying to apply this to putting a roof on a barn. Even if we studied chemistry, we might poison ourselves by improper testing of a well. And how bizarre is it that graduates from basic math courses spend their lives unable to balance a checkbook?

But what if, when we were 12, we went to live with an uncle and aunt on a farm? Oh, there might be some nice books around if we wanted to read up on crop rotation, mixing milk paint or understanding weather patterns, but for the most part, we would spend our time working alongside the grownups as apprentices. We would care for the animals, sow and harvest the crops, and cook the meals. We would spend most of our time out in the sunshine, working on something real that taught us lessons about ourselves, human nature, and the planet on which we live.

In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori:

"My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that verification form that secondary school to the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher [one], by means of their own activity, through their own effort or will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual."

It isn't what we're used to in today's world, but Einstein certainly agreed:

"Precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not - or at least not in the main - through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture."

In an Erdkinder program, the children live on a farm and their 'schooling' consists of running the farm as a business, including caring for the animals and tending the crops. Interspersed with these weighty tasks are academic studies based on real books and field trips. The goal of Erdkinder (German for Children of the Earth) is to produce adults who are equipped with the confidence in themselves and actual skills to live in the real world.

The Humane Kindness of Erdkinder

In older societies, people mark the passage into adulthood by various ceremonies. Inuit boys go on a vision quest. In other cultures, taking part in one's first game hunt marked the entry into adulthood. After this, the boy was considered a man by the culture and expected to assume all of the responsibilities of manhood.

Most modern societies are now virtually without any meaningful markers of this kind. Instead, we have created something new called 'the teen years', where someone is not really a child but not yet an adult. Maria Montessori was astonished that during the time of physical, emotional, and intellectual turmoil called adolescence, most cultures immobilize children behind desks rather than let them put their energies into meaningful projects.

It is little wonder, then, that so many young people, lost in this vague, enforced limbo, turn to drugs to distract themselves from the purposelessness of life, or become suddenly violent as do wild animals who are kept in cages. Human family systems are destroyed every day because someone refuses to be faithful to the family unit, to care for a sick family member, to care for a home, to care for children, to handle family money responsibly. Irresponsible people make life miserable for everybody, and I believe our current system of education, and the unthinking approval it has from the majority of society, is largely to blame for this.

The Erdkinder method, by contrast, empowers youth and adolescents with the knowledge that they must take responsibility for their own care and that their activities, pursuits and actions have a very real effect on their fellow students, instructors, home and community. Lessons about economics, environmental sciences, domestic arts are acquired through hands-on work and the intellect is developed by reading, by community discussion, by enriching interactions with art, music, technology and nature.

In an Erdkinder learning community, the environment is housed on a working farm. The students clean, cook, and learn to process and preserve farm-grown foods through  the understanding of the permaculture concepts. Students are actively involved in the 'family' finances, working with a budget when they shop for the community needs. The house is also the center of their social activities, a place to pursue art and to live alongside both their peers and the adult instructors who run the farm community.

Students care for the farm animals, learn handcrafts like woodworking, experiment with horticulture in an alternative energy laboratory and put on performing arts shows. The farm is surrounded by acres of forest where the students hike and explore.

Beyond acting as stewards of the home, barns and land, the students run a bed & breakfast for the community. In the midst of all of this vigorous and creative living, students are necessarily learning the following skills and arts from real-life experience: ​Math, ecology, biology, accounting, chemistry, physics, Economics, farm to table & nutrition, permaculture & land stewardship, peace education, animal husbandry, Artisan specialization, compassionate communication & conflict resolution, environmental exploration & research.


*** excerpted from Montessori for Everyone 

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