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 so many growing problems in the world, all we have to do is remember our wild side. In re-wilding, we can heal ourselves, our children and our world. My job, then, is to help re-wild children and help heal the world.
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.