By JJ Hernon, Riverside apprentice and actor
The Riverside Gathering on November 18 was an evening of community, music, delicious food, and a chance for new and existing Riverside families to learn exactly what an “imaginative outpost” is.
Peter Searby, director of the Riverside Center for Education, said that the organization is not a school, but rather is an educational program that works to inspire children to love learning. He has begun using the symbol of the lantern more and more to illustrate what Riverside aims to do.
Searby quoted Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” and noted that light has often been used as a symbol. In the Bible, creation began with a light and became an exceeding amount of galaxies.
“God started with a little beam of light and look what this (became)…At the core of education is that deep down each one of the boys has the…light within them that will manifest itself into something that is unique to them…It is an awakening of the imagination,” Searby said.
The two patrons of Riverside are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They inspired millions through their storytelling with their books, movies, poems, and songs.
Tolkien was inspired by a train that he was watching. There were Welsh letters on the side and they were so intoxicating that later in life he based languages off of those letters. Those letters opened up a world to him, and he wrote stories about it. We now have “The Lord of the Rings,” Searby said.
Lewis was inspired by something much different. His older brother came home with this little fairy garden that he made at school to learn about gardening. They would make gardens out of little plants that looked like trees and bushes, and the they would put in little roads and houses for their “Hidden People”. It was this thing of beauty that inspired Lewis.
Riverside’s flagship program, the Tutorial, is for boys-only. Students ages 8-13 do things like, put on plays, record radio shows, and draw nature. When the boys get too old they become Journeymen.
Jamie Hampton, a Journeyman from Riverside said, “Riverside is an imaginative, creative, place where a boy can be a boy without the constraints that culture puts on him.”
Hampton talked about how he did Riverside for two years, including folk music classes, theater, and tutorial. When he got too old he said to himself, “That’s it? It’s done?”
The Riverside parents also love Tutorial.
“Riverside is the answer to a lot of prayers I was praying for my boys in how to bring more creativity into their lives,” Rachel Schuchardt, mother of Jasper, 14, and Oliver, 11.
Jake Barton, a Riverside parent, hopes that Riverside can spread throughout the nation. He said, “I’d like Riverside to grow, this is a difficult task because the beauty of Riverside is in the small student to teacher ratios. You really have to find great tutors for the program to grow.”
Dan Janeiro, one of the Riverside tutors, also said that he wants Riverside to grow, but also stay true to its original mission. “I hope that it can fulfill whatever God wishes for it. And I hope that it can bring light to the darkness and it can inspire a generation of boys to become heroes of their own stories.”
Searby is in the process of forming an Imagination League, which will be a group of imaginative of people that will think up new ideas for Riverside and the greater educational world. (Unfortunately, they don’t get capes.)
“They will be animateurs,” Searby said, explaining that this means someone who brings life to a creative project.