Why We Chose to Call it The Willow School?

Many visitors to our school in Vero Beach ask, “Why did you choose to call it The Willow School?” In 2004 when we founded the school, we were looking for a name that acknowledged the importance of nature and reflected the beauty that exists all around us. We wanted a nature name because it also symbolized our vision for the school- to get children outside. Research shows how beneficial being in nature is to everyone, and even more so for our children. In fact there is a growing movement advocating that children today are suffering from, “nature deficit disorder.” This is due primarily to the exploding volume of video and technology stimulation but also to the fact that many children stay indoors for most of the day and seldom go outside even after school.

willow blog 3Some researchers argue that children would not need ADD or ADHD medication if they were able to be outside more often. Nature is an automatic stress reliever for everyone. It calms us down, helps us become more centered and has a rejuvenating effect. Kids need to be outside daily, feeling the sun on their faces, running around and playing with each other. When they are outside, they often make up games, go on treasure hunts, build forts, all stimulating their creativity.

We also wanted the school program to provide opportunities for students to experience the exquisite nature right here in our Vero Beach backyard, and around Florida too. The students annually visit places such as the Indian River Lagoon, the Sebastian Preserve and local marshes.

Willow blog 1Each year the older children (grades 3-8) participate in two 3-day camping and kayaking trips, visiting a different natural Florida location as well. Some of the places visited include: St Augustine, the Florida Keys, Fort De Soto State Park in St Petersburg, the Peace River and Wekiva Springs. These longer trips enable our students to be in nature for an extended period of time. Allowing them many moments to enjoy the peace and quiet found there as well as appreciate the natural flora and fauna.

So in looking for a name reflective of nature, we turned our attention to local fauna. There are a wide variety of birds in the Vero Beach area; wading birds such as the blue heron, roseate spoonbill, sandhill crane… The Sandhill School? Songbirds too, painted bunting and mockingbirds but those names didn’t seem to work.

Then we tried the flora: oaks, laurel oaks, river oaks, The Oak School? The River Oak School? We kept going with trees: poinciana, palmettto, and then we remembered willows. The Willow School? Willow trees are majestic and elegant and can grow almost anywhere there is water. They are also flexible, strong and adapting. We wanted our students to embrace those characteristics of the willow tree too; to be strong and yet flexible. So Willow seemed to fit all of our criteria and had even more symbolism than we had originally set out to encompass. In fact, there was a simplicity to the name too. It stuck and The Willow School in Vero Beach was born!

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