Joey Moncarz, co-founder and head teacher:
Kia ora! When I was a child, I sang to the birds, played in the trees and dreamed of leaving the city of Miami to live in the wild Everglades, with the pelicans, mangroves, raccoons, alligators and all the others I considered kin. As a teenager I looked out at the modern world and found that none of it made sense. It was only later, in my discovery of indigenous knowledge, wisdom and traditions, in addition to the support of certain anthropologists, that I realised that my youthful dreams and thoughts were completely natural. We weren't meant for the 'civilised' life; we were meant for the wild.
That's why I started the DGBS. For as long as humans have walked the Earth, they raised children through free play in nature with adults serving as healthy role models, and the change to locking kids up inside all day is a recent experiment, with clearly horrific results. We need to remember how humans evolved to learn and to live, and to make our priorities in life the health, happiness and well-being of all people, future generations, and all life on the planet.
I've lived in NZ for ten years and am a NZ registered teacher. I taught various subjects in high school: English, drama, maths, social studies, media studies, horticulture and sustainability. I wrote and directed plays for schools (including winning two play-writing awards), designed and ran new courses, and initiated and led Climate Change Action Groups at two schools.
I've studied French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. I learned organic horticulture and permaculture from working on numerous organic farms in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. Other areas of knowledge and practice are wilderness skills, tramping & camping, canoe/kayaking, tai chi. I've tramped, camped and spent much time in the wilderness areas of the U.S., France, New Zealand and several other countries. I'm very fit, I love to play sports and active games, and can keep up with just about any child!
The Deep Green Bush-School is a chance to do the right thing. By raising kids in nature, they will have healthy and joyful childhoods. By raising kids in nature, with a mentoring framework built on wisdom, they'll grow up to be adults willing to do what it takes to protect the natural world. They'll have the intelligence and perspective necessary to solve the problems older generations are leaving to them. They'll be guided by wisdom rather than self-interest. They'll know how to live in harmony with nature and in harmony with each other - and, looking around at the state of the world, this is absolutely necessary.
Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching, AUT 2007
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Emerson College 1996
Bachelor of Arts in English, Florida International University 1993
Oksana Simonoff, co-founder:
I am a working mother with two girls of “school age”, and it's been making me think and inquire into this thing we call school and the reasons for it. In my childhood, I didn't begin school until I was seven, which in Russia was normal, and so it didn't seem right to cut my kids' childhoods short by two years. This inspired me to research, and what I found was that neuro-science and anthropology were saying that, for healthy development, children shouldn't even be locked in a classroom! Where all the research led me to is that kids should be in nature.
I'm a NZ-chartered accountant and tax lawyer, and have been working in the corporate world for 20 years, and what I see is that employers don't regard schooling or test scores or even university degrees as signals for productive employees; what they're really looking for are people who are creative, resilient, questioning, self-motivated and who don't just mindlessly follow along. Traditional schools don't nurture those kind of qualities – but learning through free play in nature does.
On top of that, the job market is melting under our feet because employers who designed schools to train us for factory work a hundred years ago are now finding ways to automate or outsource jobs to cheaper countries. Jobs are disappearing, and for the jobs that are left, “skills” are not the key. Skills are for yesterday, but what remains employable is emotional intelligence – and this cannot be schooled. Emotional intelligence develops in response to a nurturing, safe environment, in which innate curiosity is allowed to flourish - and nature is proving to be the best learning environment.
Beyond that, as parents we will need to learn to stop measuring the success of our parenting on whether our kids are gainfully employed, since the future is mostly jobless and there will be much fewer jobs that are worth committing human time to. Instead, like thousands of generations before us, we should aspire for our children both to live in meaningful ways that spring from an intimate connection to the natural world, and also to be able to provide for themselves other than depending on store shelves. And perhaps, with the employment market gone, it will be time for schools as we know them to go also.
Since my practical mind requires action, I had to do something. I'm thrilled every time I meet a conscious parent who is willing to act and make the right choice for their kids. If you are one of those parents, please reach out to us and together we can keep childhoods beautiful for longer, help give our kids more meaningful lives, and help mend the broken world. The Deep Green Bush-School can help make this happen.
Sarah Ryan, staff & parent:
I've been with the DGBS since the first day. What brought me and my family to this school is the deep and thought provoking philosophy and their “Culture of Sustainability”. There is no comparison to any other school out there. This is a school for parents who think, who want their kids to think – and not just to think, but also to feel. Kids learn to feel empathy towards others, including plants and animals. They feel the joys of life that kids should be allowed to feel, each and every day.
Everything at the school is done with a fun and healthy mindset, based on discussion, healthy food, the freedom to play and explore outside, with no modern technology to weaken their minds. Kids are surrounded daily with like-minded peers and adults. It's simply the right place to be. Everyday I am amazed at what the kids take in; they find true beauty, connection and fun in nature. They feel free to express themselves and grow at their own pace. I am there to be a helping hand, a sounding board and to give gentle encouragement in the right direction.
Think about it: kids are at school 30 hours a week – so school has an enormous impact when compared with family time, and kids will be shaped by what they are surrounded with. So if a child grows up in such a healthy environment like at the DGBS, it can only have a positive effect. I've seen the positive effect on my own daughter, starting from her first week, and I see the effects on our other students. Each and every one of them is transformed. My own thinking has been transformed as well, and parents need to be prepared for the same effect on them when they send their kids here.
It's a thrill for me to assist our students in their transformations. We're all immersed in an environment where we learn to feel the call of nature, we learn to understand the natural world, we learn how the natural world can sustain us, and how important it is for us to protect and restore the natural world, and to stop destroying it. We learn to understand that the way we live is a choice and the choices we make have an impact not only on ourselves but future generations. This is the most important lesson, far more important than anything learned from a screen.
I only wish more parents would think about what they're doing when they send their kids to school, and consider what a healthy childhood would really look like. I see it each day at the DGBS. For the lucky kids whose parents send them to the DGBS, I can see that they are developing the abilities and qualities to create meaningful lives for themselves.
That’s what has brought me and my family here - and we couldn’t be happier!