Free Rangers walk the city’s streets, parks, squares and water-edges—with teachers who prompt them to “read the environment” of the natural and cultural histories of the Hudson River Estuary.
Free Ranger walks exercise students’ mind and bodies, strengthen muscles and cognitive faculties, and provide a conceptual space where they can share their thoughts and feelings—and do something together—about climate anxiety.
We don’t download data into our students. They get enough of that elsewhere.
Instead, we apply Aristotle’s peripatetic method of “unschooling”—by releasing them into the world, while helping them note and interpret the things they sense.
Our city is a text, constituted by signs and symbols that are natural and cultural. While students open their senses and notice that “place is a story we live in,” we nurture the side of their character that is curious about the world and their place in it.
When we walk, they raise questions and begin philosophical discussions without being forced. Sharing the thrills of being in the field, and enjoying the chance to share understandings, argue points, and create knowledge together, they make friends. As they gain facility in interpreting the world, they become more positively self-conscious and -assured.
By getting out and experiencing their city, they find their place in it.
We explore parks, neighborhoods and infrastructures, pausing to closely observe living creatures and consider what they are and how they co-inhabit the city.
Though the city often appears bereft of life, nearly every surface and crack provides homes for algae, moss and fungus—all building blocks for larger more complex lifeforms.
Teachers help students awaken and train their senses to see the “bios” in the “machine”.
As we roam, students observe our built environment closely and develop a vocabulary of engineering, infrastructural and architectural terms.
They acquire the language they need to understand, and express, what the world is doing around them, and how they fit into it.
This language and detail-oriented way of comprehending the world empowers students by giving them confidence they know who, and where, they are, and enhances the science and humanities lessons they learn via traditional indoor schooling.
FIELD ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY:
When students learn to read the environment, they realize that the environment is not “out there”—it’s our biome, and like home it’s an essential, beloved, part of themselves.
Biome is a story we live in!
Understanding and sharing this, students shift from being consumer of reality to makers of it. The understanding grounds their bioethical awareness, their natural sense of right and wrong. FEP education gives them the time and space to develop, find words for, and express through action, this understanding.
Free Ranger sessions are Field Environmental Philosophy walks that bring students into direct contact with the biocultural expressions of NYC’s unique identity.
At the beginning of the walk, teachers raise a question to launch the quest;
then we’re off on a treasure hunt, hunting and gathering clues to answer it. Students exercise, perceive, share stories and background knowledge together, and have fun experimenting with a way of reading the world called eco-semiotics.
Each session we attempt to bring students to sites of first human inhabitation and then work forward to the present moment. FEP learning occurs recursively and nonlinear-ily; we establish motivs and return and depart them as our environments and attention spans change.
Our week will likely include:
Every class consists of 2 adult teachers and up to 10 students. The 5 to 1 staff to student ratio lets us break up into smaller groups at any given moment, which allows students to lead investigations—a personal growth opportunity that we encourage. Teachers are certified first responders and carry medical kits.
Free Ranger FEP Walks
> Drop off and pick-up are at the Park Slope Public Library.
New students get 20% off any class registration using code — “psp20”
Registration requires the uploading of medical and other forms. Each student must be registered individually.