Clumps of students, from kindergarteners to eighth-graders, gradually emerged from the woods to fill up a scenic outdoor amphitheater that serves as the Burgundy Farm Country Day School’s assembly hall. They gathered on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day and the school’s 70th anniversary.
The independent school that draws from Fairfax County, Alexandria, Washington, D.C. and Maryland sits surprisingly close to the Capital Beltway in Alexandria, given its secluded and bucolic scenery. Burgundy’s indoor and outdoor classrooms are spread across more than 25 acres, with one of the goals giving students a more interactive education experience with nature.
Burgundy opened with 40 students, today there are around 285.
Head of School Jeff Sindler, now in his 10th year at the progressive school, reminded the student body, “We need to care of this space here, but out in the world also.”
At Burgundy, the students observed an entire week of activities and lessons centered around the environment, culminating in Earth Day.
“Earth Day and Earth Week are reminders of how some of that respect can play out,” Sindler said. “We’re learning to be citizens at Burgundy.”
Delegates Mark Sickles (D-43) and Paul Krizek (D-44) took a tour of the grounds, including new outdoor classroom and discovery playground that opened last summer, before reading a resolution from the General Assembly commending Burgundy on its 70th birthday.
Krizek himself attended Burgundy, finishing sixth grade as part of the class of 1976.
“We’re so happy to have this special kind of education,” Sickles said.
“This is the perfect occasion to celebrate the anniversary of this wonderful school,” Krizek added. “This is where the environmental movement kind of started, here. You get a real education and learn about nature, how it’s very important we take this planet seriously.”
A group of current eighth-grade students testified to impact of their primary school experience.
“I love the community we have here, like it’s a second home,” said Evan Roper.
Gari Puckrein agreed, “Everyone knows each other and treats each other with respect.”
They also value the outdoors component of the school, which includes regular visits to a 500-acre Center for Wildlife Studies at Cooper’s Cove in West Virginia.
“We’re integrated with it, the indoor and outdoor, and we have that in one place,” said Ahmad Dove.
Majlis Walker added, “We know a lot about trees and birds; that’s just part of what we learned here.”