Today, my boys and I were introduced to a nature-based elementary school that offers modern kids a balance of guided instruction and unstructured daily time in the woods. Inside Outside School is a small private elementary school situated on 7.24 acres along Gilleland Creek, just north of Austin. On the rural campus, a donkey and goats graze while chickens mull about. Children play in the creek, some with fishing poles, while others canoe. There is a playground, structures made of sticks and branches, and a rugged teepee frame. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to stretch out and breathe it all in (or, if you are a boy, to run down a big hill).
Touring the campus, I took in the various classrooms, both indoor and out, the cob oven, the shop, the theatrical stage, the kitchen, and the library. Converted from a house and freestanding garage, the small school maintains a homey feel. It’s cozy, and I could see how the younger grades would enjoy coexisting together.
Each day at Inside Outside School starts and ends with a group meeting for all grades, K – 5. Weekly HIVE meetings offer students a democratic experience, where they are allowed to add topics of discussion to the agenda. It’s important to the school to nurture a sense of community, which focuses on appreciation for individuality, positive individual attention, and empowerment through choice.
Fridays are elective days, when students may cook, sew, act, garden, craft, tinker, and more. Electives are voted on each semester and reflect the interests of the students. In the afternoons, kids at Inside Outside School are given 45 minutes of Nature Literacy time. This is unstructured playtime, where they can roam the woods, dig in the dirt, build forts out of branches, or splash in the creek.
One parent, Nicole Lessin, describes how her daughter has blossomed at the unique school. “Since last spring, my daughter Katie has been thriving at… Inside Outside School. Every day my high-energy kid comes home tired, happy and increasingly confident after a day spent on a variety of fun activities, including building forts and shelters along the school’s year-round creek, collaboratively writing and then acting out a play, helping with the birth of several baby goats, cooking wood-fired pizzas, learning fractions and even conducting independent research on animal intelligence.”
Inside Outside School
5530 Killingsworth Lane
Pflugerville, Texas 78660
Phone: (512) 251-1109