Learn by playing outdoors, valuing diversity, connecting with your inner self and nature. These are some of the principles that drive Damanhur Community School, now renamed “Liber School” in reference to the utopian society described in Falco’s book “Liber S”. For more than 35 years we have been teaching children from the Damanhur community, caring for children aged 6 months to adolescence.

Summer 2020 was a turning point for us

For economic and demographic reasons, we had to suspend the middle school (6th-8th grade). Eight new children from surrounding villages joined our nursery, kindergarten and elementary school. Thus, in the midst of the crisis, we entered a new turn of the spiral by introducing a new pedagogical approach: non-directive, experiential learning in nature. In a way, our pedagogy has always been very much experiential already with lots of travel, hands-on learning, and art being part of the syllabus but did wanted to upgrade that approach further. Solution: turned our beautiful outdoor area of rocks and trees behind the school building into our outdoor classroom. We are fortunate to be located close to the Mt Pelati Nature Reserve, and just 200 steps from the center of Damanhur, Damjl.

Our children spend a large part of the day outdoors, in contact with nature and thus learning while moving and playing. Spending time in nature is the perfect environment to explore the inner and outer senses. This focus on the senses plays an important role in teachings of Damanhur’s founder Falco Tarassaco, and the benefit of this approach is very evident in our children: they are attracted to different things depending on their age, but our outdoor garden captures attention of every child. And as we all know too well, attention is the key to successful and productive learning.

Here are a few practical examples

Every child in our elementary school children has a tree friend, forming an important and very personal relationship over time. How does that integrate into our teaching methods? In many ways, for example by preparing for your dreams at night with the help of your tree-friend and then writing them down, you get insights from deep within. Carefully examining the angles of the branches and leaves helps young minds master geometry and sense of proportion. Connecting with the tree friend in meditation and expressing sensations through art creates additional creative avenues. On Monday morning common group circle, shared by children of all ages, we light up a fire at our base camp, allowing everyone to tune in and share connection with Fire Element.

Finally, our latest achievement: a hanging classroom

7 x 9 m, the ‘big spider web’ as the children call it…. Outdoor dynamics have been true life-saver to us during the pandemic months. While most children in Italy have had to get used to a new discipline with masks and reduced contact, our children stayed outside and were healthier than ever.

For the new school year 2021/22, another 25 children have joined our school. The school now is proud to have 66 children of impressive diversity of backgrounds (for example, one third having at least one non-Italian parent), most of whom are from families outside of Damanhur, surrounding villages and the valley.

The backbone of our school are very special people, our teachers. Most of them are Damanhurians, some are true veterans of their professions, being the very first teachers from the birth of the school in 90’s. Some are former students of our school! The sincere dedication of this beautiful group is truly unmatched.

In the early years, our school has been fully financed by Damanhur Federation through contributions from its citizens. Today, one third of the budget is financed by school tuitions, with the rest continuing to be supported by Damanhur. To the best of our ability we follow a financial policy of social and economic fairness, adjusting school fees to parents’ income, as well as incorporating parents’ talents and contributions in the form of volunteer work. All projects that beyond the day-by-day operations and maintenance, however, depend on donations and grants, such as construction of a new road to ensure safer access to the school, purchase of new, more comfortable chairs for the kindergarten… I believe that this spirit of self-less generosity is the key to our common abundance, not to mention the support from forces of synchronicity we are experiencing.

We plan to relaunch the middle school next September for the 6th grade and already receive many registrations. As a response to the restrictions due to pandemic in public schools, many homeschooling initiatives are sprouting and Liber School is perceived by many in this area as a focal point. Our school aims to provide the children with tools to discover their potential and talents, thus growing into independent and fulfilled individuals, able to determine and confidently navigate their own, individual path in life.

This may seem utopian in today’s world, but for us it is a vision that we put into practice.

Capra Carruba, director of the Liber School and mother of two children.