Rock Tree Sky
Rock Tree Sky Parent
My daughter is more expressive, more communicative of her thoughts and emotions, and has accessed an excitement for the learning environment and her relationships that we never witnessed before.
FACTS & FIGURES
Young learners served
Free and reduced lunch
Ask nearly any parent around the world what they want for their children and it will include words like “happiness,” “joy,” “fulfillment,” “freedom,” and similar synonyms. When it comes to describing what they want from their child’s education, the words they choose will unlikely change. The universality of what parents want for their kids, regardless of the context they imagine their children in, is a powerful starting point when designing a transformed, learner-centered environment.
For Natasha Efross, who dropped out of high school at 16 and earned her high school equivalency (e.g. GED) so she could enroll in community college, she didn’t want her daughter to develop a negative relationship with learning. For Jim Bailey (now married to Efross), who left college early (and returned a few years later), he didn’t want the young learners he served to feel as directionless as he did as they entered adulthood. With these strong motivations, the two launched Rock Tree Sky, an independent enrichment center in Ventura County, California currently serving over 100 young learners.
Rock Tree Sky began as an experiment. Efross wanted to explore homeschooling with a few parents in her community and, as an educator herself, was able to offer day-to-day learning opportunities in her home. Bailey jumped on board the experiment quickly, launching the couple’s professional partnership with an initial cohort of seventeen young learners who were immediately engaged in personalized, relevant, and contextualized learning. Efross and Bailey acted as “yes men”—if a young learner wanted to explore a particular topic or activity, they were there to ensure the opportunity to do so was available.
As the learning environment has evolved—and grown far too big to operate inside a family home—its leaders have begun pushing the envelope on creating more dynamic open-walled opportunities. They envision their campus—an old elementary school—becoming a co-working space where young learners will have immediate access to professionals working in a variety of industries. They also want to bolster their internship opportunities by creating more and more relationships with community organizations and businesses throughout the county.
This “free to explore” model allows young learners of all ages to develop a strong sense of learner agency and cultivate an identity as lifelong learners. At every turn, their interests and curiosities are met with support. And, if an interest goes stale, they know they can quickly pivot to a new learning opportunity.
All of the elements described above are boosted by an organic, socially embedded culture that permeates Rock Tree Sky. Young learners are encouraged to collaborate with one another and their mentors. Parents and Rock Tree Sky leaders are constantly in conversation—building deep relationships across all levels. And, educators and mentors are always looking for ways to provide the best experience for every child they serve.
Rock Tree Sky was opened in 2016. With such fast uptick in enrollment, Efross and Bailey know their learner-centered ideas can make an even bigger impact. They are now looking to work with public districts and public charters alike to bring learner-centered education to as many learning environments as possible within their broader community. And then, who knows what they’ll pursue next.
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