New Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative underway

  • Clara Snyder, 5, holds up a chestnut during the Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative’s Nature Exploring Club session Tuesday. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Elaina Holloway, 3, paints a pumpkin outside the former Warwick Community School on Tuesday. The site is being used by the Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Volunteer Tracey Kirley identifies nuts with Clara Snyder, 5, during the Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative’s Nature Exploring Club session on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Evan Holloway holds nuts and seeds at a Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative session on Tuesday.

  • From left, Elaina Holloway, Evan Holloway and Clara Snyder work in the mud kitchen during the Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative’s Nature Exploring Club session on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2020 10:06:57 PM

WARWICK — It’s all about outdoor education as families start the year as part of the new Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative.

Developed by members of the Warwick Advisory Committee on Elementary Education and students’ parents, the home-schooling curriculum incorporates outdoor learning and extracurricular “enrichment” clubs at the former Warwick Community School, which is no longer used by the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. Adam Holloway, chair of the committee, said he, fellow members and parents have been “plugging along” as they enter the third week of the program, which has about 20 students in preschool through sixth grade.

Holloway said resident Tom Ziniti, a retired former Warwick Community School teacher, has held Zoom classes to guide reading activities, and has held one-on-one discussions to provide advice for parents with questions on how to best approach home-school lessons. According to Holloway, planning members used the Oak Meadow home-schooling curriculum as a basis for their own education model. He explained that the Warwick curriculum has required lessons or goals for students to achieve each week, but there is no rigid schedule for when the work needs to be completed each day.

“They say, ‘This is what you have to do for the week’ and, as a parent, you decide how you fit it into your world,” Holloway said.

Speaking from his own experience, Holloway said that “if everything goes well,” his children may complete the day’s work by noon. They then have the rest of the day to augment what they learned and “deep dive” into various topics. He said this may not be possible in a less intimate settings than home schooling because full classrooms have to continue moving along, and teachers cannot always take time to entertain the interests of a single student at length.

“You cover the topic as necessary, and then you can go down a rabbit hole with it, as much as the kids want,” Holloway said. “If it piques their interest, you can go for hours.”

To start, the program is volunteer-based. Without money to pay staff, Holloway said, the cooperative is starting as a small, part-time program that will build over time.

In addition to the academic curriculum, students in the Warwick Community Homeschool Cooperative can participate in three enrichment activities led by community members each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. Students in the Nature Exploring Club meet Tuesdays to partake in gardening, plant identification walks and other nature-based educational activities led by Tracey Kirley. Last week, Holloway said, Kirley brought clay from the Connecticut River for a sort of show-and-tell discussion on river habitat.

On Wednesdays, students meet for physical education activities led by community volunteers. On Thursdays, Janice Starmer leads an art club where students have been working with clay and other materials. Holloway said the Warwick Arts Council lent the cooperative a pop-up tent to use on the school grounds.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see kids being social again,” Holloway said.

For students who qualify for free lunches, Selectboard member Brian Snell coordinated with Pioneer Valley Regional School District Superintendent Jonathan Scagel and Food Service Director Mike Onorato to establish a food drop-off point at the former Warwick Community School building. Snell said the district drops off meals between 9:45 and 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.


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