Spy Rock School
Spy Rock School is a one-room schoolhouse located north of Laytonville. Grades 1-4 learn together in a project-based learning/family environment. In February of 2012 our students wrote descriptions of their favorite aspects of our school. Here you will find their words and stories about Spy Rock School.
Spy Rock School parents are involved in many ways: organizing fund-raisers, serving on the school board, participating in field trips, making hot lunches, putting on the annual plant sale and car-pooling.
Parent volunteers make hot lunches in our school kitchen each Wednesday. Parents sign up to make a variety of hot lunches because as one parent says, “Hot lunches are fun and nutritious.” The current student favorite is homemade pizza.
Many students carpool to and from school to save gasoline because there is no bus service to Spy Rock School. Students and parents find that car-pooling isn't just practical, it's fun too.
Parent volunteers enrich the school day by sharing their expertise and interests with Spy Rock students. Regular parent-led classes are music, drama, yoga, arts, crafts, motor skills, and gardening.
The Cob Oven
We built the cob oven in 2009 when we were studying fire. We use the cob oven for baking foods such as pizza, bagels, and bread. Students and parent volunteers built the oven out of local clay, sand, and straw. We chose to build with cob because kids can do it. Baking in the oven requires preparation and care, but once the fire is going the oven can easily reach over 700 degrees and the ambient heat lasts for many hours.
The cob oven has a brick bottom, metal chimney, and a wood door, but the rest of it is cob. It has a void in the middle where we cook things. To heat it up we have to maintain a fire for four hours. Then we take the coals out and clean the oven’s interior. By that time it is about 700-800 degrees. Next, we put the food in and bake it. By this time it may be 400-500 degrees.
Spy Rock School put birdhouses up in 2004 which began a Valentine’s Day tradition of putting up new birdhouses in mid February. The birdhouses are different sizes and designs to cater to an array of birds, such as Western Blue Birds and Violet Green Swallows.
Students helped to build and paint the birdhouses. Every fall our school checks the houses for nests and eggs.
We record our results, and study the old nests and eggs.
Spy Rock School uses water from a spring and from our rain water collection system. We practice water conservation and have designed our campus with multiple swales to direct water flow to perennial crops.
Some of our summer irrigation comes from rain water collected off the classroom roof. It only takes 4 inches of rain to fill the tanks up with 3,600 gallons of water.
The Cob Dragon
The cob dragon was built in 2006 while studying geology. The cob dragon is made of cob (local clay, sand, and straw). The dragon is used as a playground structure and for some P.E. games. It is also used as a place to eat lunch. Other kids like to pretend it is a real dragon, or even a fortress. The students designed the cob dragon with clay models. Cob is made by putting dirt and sand on a tarp, getting a partner and rolling the cob back and forth between them. Then we trade positions and continue rolling the cob in the tarp. A hole is made in the middle of the material and water is poured into it. After that, we dance on top of the cob to stomp it, and then straw is added. Finally we take one side of the tarp and fold it over to the other side to mix it a little more. Our cob dragon is built around a recycled concrete tube that a man from Cal Trans dug up from along the highway, it weighs over a ton. Every couple of years we re-plaster the dragon and oil it.
The Spy Rock School playground is surrounded by a cypress and cedar forest planted 15 years ago by students and community members to buffer the wind and provide shade. The equipment is a mixture of items donated or built by community members. During recess, students play traditional games like soccer, basketball, tag, and four-square, in addition to games tailored to our school such as Forest Monster and Capture the Forest Flag.
The playground at Spy Rock School was built in 1989. Before that, the students used to play with plywood and dig holes. The playground is a collection of equipment that was donated to the school or built by community members. There are even remnants of the Sonoma Hospital’s old play-set. During a typical recess, you can find Spy Rock Students hula-hooping, playing basket ball, playing zombie tag, and playing on the jungle gym. Not even two feet of snow can keep these kids from playing outside, but they have to wear snow gear.
Spy Rock School has a vibrant student garden. Every Friday during gardening class students grow kale, broccoli, carrots, onions, fava beans, peas, daffodils, cardoons, raspberries, garlic and corn. Students eat and prepare food from the garden. An all time favorite was making popcorn grown in our garden. Our gardening teacher is Shelagh, a parent volunteer at Spy Rock School.
Students have been planting fruit trees in the schoolorchard for nine years. The orchard is filled with apples, pears, plums, cherries, quinces, service berries, and nitrogen fixing trees. Students tend and harvest the fruit trees. Sometimes the fruit is dried and eaten for snacks.
Spy Rock School has been turning all its organic waste into compost for the last nine years. Every day the compost bucket fills up with material from lunch preparation and students’ lunch waste. The compost bucket gets emptied into our dual chamber tumbling composter, and mixed with biodegradable items, garden waste, and wood-shavings from Elliot Stables. Our composter is outfitted with four hand-cranks for students to turn and mix up the compost. Our compost has reached temperatures of over 150 degrees. After four weeks adding to one side we start filling the next chamber. After four more weeks we empty the original side, and out comes soil that was made at our school. This year we are filling 25-gallon buckets with our fresh compost and planting something different each month. So far this year we have planted fava beans, cardoons, garlic,daffodils, raspberries, peas, and lettuce in our compost demonstration garden. Many lessons are learned as we grow fertility by composting at school.
Every Tuesday Spy Rock Students enjoy mixed media art class. Activities include painting, paper crafts, sewing, and collage. As part of our Energy theme, we crafted a model of a hydro-electric energy system on our classroom wall. We also do seasonal art projects, like crafting shirt wings for Halloween and making paper dragons for Chinese New Year.
On Mondays we have music class. Students practice voice and a variety of instruments: piano, hand drums, marimba and the recorder. It is common for the songs students practice on Monday to be heard throughout the week.
Spy Rock School students take a water hike every couple of weeks. We walk up Spy Rock Road and then turn where the culvert dumps the in-board flow from the road and follow it down towards our school pond. We pass a willow tree that we planted years ago to shade the creek and hold the hillside in place. Students examine their erosion control projects and check the water level in the school pond before returning to the classroom.
The petroglyph located near Spy Rock Road is our school mascot. It was created by the Native Americans more than a thousand years ago, and first documented by European settlers over 100 years ago. Sometimes we hike to the petroglyph for P.E. which takes us about 50 minutes round trip. The trail can be very tiring because the petroglyph rock is on a hot, steep hillside. We are proud of our unique mascot because it is an ancient piece of art.
Spy Rock School is located in the hills north of Laytonville, California. This one-room school house began because Spy Rock Road was too rough for a school bus to travel, and the commute to Laytonville was too far for local residents. Spy Rock School was established in 1988 to serve students in the Spy Rock area. Currently, enrollment is focused on Kindergarten-6th grades, however in years past the school has also included junior high students. Spy Rock School has always been influenced by the involvement of community members and student's families. It is a social hub of a remote, rural region.
At Spy Rock School we have a theme each year. Our themes--water, energy, geology, habitat, culture & geography, fire, and cycles--rotate every seven years. Special school projects and field trips usually relate to the current year's theme. Themes allow students to explore the many facets of these important concepts and provide an over-arching direction for each academic year.
Spy Rock School has raised sheep in the past. For the last few years we have been raising chickens. We sell the eggs at their Feed Store in Laytonville and use them in our lunches.