Free School

Coworkers work together to hang seed in the trees for the birds.
Innisfree’s free school workstation recognizes the value of individual expression, so four days a week, free school participants explore their creative sides. Music therapy, art, pottery, and paper-making provide dedicated space for coworkers, volunteer caregivers, and artisans to work side by side on projects. Free schoolers joyfully engage in music and rehearse a song and dance number for a community performance. Imaginations are free to run wild in art class during the building and decorating of a giant, fantasy dragon. Clay flowerpots are lovingly shaped and glazed for Mother’s Day in pottery. The seeds of flowering plants and fragrant herbs are added, by hand, to the colorful, satisfyingly squishy paper pulp for wedding invitations, birth announcements, and holiday ornaments.

Friday trips to the local library are a weekly favorite. With the help of volunteer caregivers and librarians, coworkers learn to look for books on their favorite topics. This activity also offers coworkers an opportunity to improve their reading skills.

Free school provides every participant with a chance to wonder at the changing seasons in Innisfree’s natural setting through activities imagined by a volunteer, a coworker, or the whole group. Summer brings wildflower picking walks around the 550 acre grounds. Autumn sees the collection of leaves that are used to construct colorful centerpieces for Innisfree’s Community Center tables. Winter’s fresh snow inspires the making of snow angels and hot chocolate. Spring’s welcome arrival is sometimes marked by a visit to the newly hatched chickens.

Free school is a fulfilling choice for many coworkers who find it challenging to work a full day in other workstations, but it is also time for people to grow and learn together as a group. During vase painting in the pottery, an opportunity may arise to learn the importance of sharing space and tools. Giving a hug to a friend with a scraped finger after blackberry picking reinforces the importance of empathy and compassion. Singing cheerful songs to the residents of a retirement community during the holidays spreads throughout the wider world the joy and exuberance felt each day at Innisfree.