The 2021-2022 school year provided many challenges, changes and learning! Looking back, I can confidently say that we did our best in the situations we were handed, and I learned a lot! Even with the challenges to solve with COVID and weather, your amazing children remained resilient, inquisitive, caring and a joy to behold! Regardless of the bumps in the road, it was a wonderful year. Thank you for all you do to make Walnut Farm what it is and for sharing your children with us!
In celebration and closing of our 30th year, I have included portions of my speech from our 30th celebration and words from our founder, Maren Schmidt, (Please see Maren’s full letter in another section of this newsletter.)
Dr. Montessori said, “”If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of [humankind].”
Since 1991, Walnut Farm has provided a Montessori education to children in NW Arkansas. The school grew from a small farm house off of Moberly lane with one 3-6 classroom, to this beautiful six-acre campus currently serving 123 students 18 months to 9 years of age. The past two years have been a challenge for all. I am certain that this school would not still be here without all of you! We not only survived this pandemic, but Walnut Farm is now thriving and ready to grow. All of this would not have been possible without the dedication and generosity of each of you, as well as many who are not able to attend today.
Walnut Farm is a special place for so many reasons:
- First, we are a Montessori school dedicated to providing the best Montessori education possible. Our staff is dedicated to life-long learning as well, and this includes continual professional development and the work it takes to maintain our accreditation.
- Though others are working to follow our footsteps, we are the first accredited American Montessori Society school in the state of Arkansas. We are also accredited through Cognia, and have the highest level of Better Beginnings for our students in Primary and Toddler.
- We have an amazing community- Our school is supported and thriving because of our dedicated staff, our supportive Board of Trustees, our families, and the many stakeholders who share in our vision of education for children.
- Walnut Farm is not only a school for children, but a place to support families on their journey of raising these amazing people who will one day, be our leaders of tomorrow.
- And, just look at this beautiful place! We are able to offer outdoor education and additional time in nature to the children. Each level will have their own outdoor classroom teachers and spaces, next year! Nature and caring for others feeds the soul and makes us grow to be the people who are able to feel enough gratitude and abundance to give when there is a need. These children and alumni right here, are the people we need more of in this world.
With all of these wonderful things Walnut Farm brings, there is still room for growth- physically and mentally. I am excited to share these plans with you!
- Physically, we need more indoor space. Our most immediate need is to add an additional Primary classroom. Currently, our toddler program almost fills every available space each year in primary. This classroom will provide additional space to families who may be new to the area or who were unable to start in our toddler program.
- We also need to add administration offices where visitors walk into a welcoming space with administration right there. It will also provide meeting spaces to host small meetings and provide space for therapists to work with children.
- These plans are coming to fruition as I speak. We are working with the architect, Dave Burris to finalize plans and begin construction as soon as possible.
- We also have the dream to have an upper elementary program and indoor community space. These two things will not be possible without additional funding from our community and stakeholders. I will share more in the coming months!
- On the education side of growth, we want to add to the already wonderful trails our outdoor classroom team have worked so hard on the past two years. We want to make our additional acreage a living laboratory of native plants and animals, and perhaps add to our farm animals as well!
- Last, but most important, Walnut Farm is doing the work to become a more welcoming and diverse community. As a Montessori community, we are in the business of helping raise humans and are committed to the betterment of humanity. This is no small task, and requires diligence and vulnerability. I hope to walk through this journey with all of you as we approach difficult conversations and broaden our thinking in these efforts.
I’d like to close with these kind words from our founder, Maren Schmidt:
*“Congratulations on celebrating thirty years!
For a school, or any business, to be around after thirty years is a combination of luck, persistence, and perseverance.
What will the next thirty years bring?
There will be many challenges and rewards.
The challenges center around creating and maintain a community of people who have at heart their purpose, “children first”.
When we make decisions based on “children first”, the rewards multiply and multiply, not only to children but to everyone in our community.
The past two years of dealing with the covid crisis tested the resiliency of most every person in our country, and probably on the planet.
The Walnut Farm Community can celebrate thirty years because the community shares vulnerability. How do I know? Otherwise ,Walnut Farm would be gone like 25 to 30 percent of all private schools in the United States that were not able to muster the resources to stay in business.
The past two years was all new territory. You navigated it. Celebrate!”
Thank you for playing a vital role in Walnut Farm’s history. You have made, and do make a difference in this world!
With Sincerity and Gratitude,