There are places where electricity is not the only product of a solar array. Kroka Expeditions is one of them.
Atop the old farmhouse, which is quite large, there is a solar array, which was installed by ReVision Energy. It has 37 panels. They provide about 14,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity, eliminating production of well over 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, each year. This solar array is important for providing Kroka Expeditions with renewable energy it needs to meet its climate goals. But it has another importance that must not be overlooked. It is a part of a way of life that is handed down to the students being educated there. It is central to a connection to nature that provides students with a special understanding of how they fit into nature because along with the farming and connection with the wetlands and forest, it is a focus of education, teaching students ways to be part of nature without disrupting it. That is a message we all should learn.
While this is an impressive amount of solar, Kroka Expeditions offers much more sustainable experiences. If we tell you that Kroka Expeditions is a school, we would be telling the truth, in a way. But the vision you might get from that statement is so far from reality that more explanation is necessary. A better statement might be that Kroka Expeditions is non-profit organization that offers young people learning experiences built around connections of self with nature, community, and the resources we need for life. It gives its students insights that are simply not available in a conventional school, and they range from such things as growing the food they eat to going on lengthy adventures into the natural world.
Misha Golfman and Lynne Boudreau founded Kroka in 1996 as a summer camp program for the Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro, Vermont. It took advantage of the location, including stream and forest sites. Golfman has said, “Nature is a great teacher,” and Kroka took advantage of the skills nature provided. In time it grew to include not just forestry and farming, but a range of subjects from wilderness living to examining sustainable small building design. It has programs that start with gathering the resources to build a canoe and only end after reaching a goal hundreds of miles away.
Kroka has moved and grown. Now it is on a 120-acre site in Marlow, New Hampshire. It has wetlands, farmland, and forest. Students participate in the farming and in the life of the community, as they grow food and split wood in addition to activities that vary by season and program. And yes, that does include accredited work in a standard curriculum.
Students can attend for relatively short periods, a full semester, or longer. There are expeditions that go rather far afield. Some students sail and paddle their way from the Canadian border to New York City. Some have explored the Rio Grande. The opportunities are changing, and they seem almost endless.
The school is based on the Waldorf system of education, and to some extent on the Montessori system. According to its website, “Some of the observations and insights of Rudolf Steiner are woven into Kroka’s practices, from biodynamic gardening and the use of homeopathic medicine to Goethean observation.”
With that background information, the reader might not be particularly surprised to learn something, though it also seems rather astonishing. Kroka’s main building, a 200-year-old farmhouse, is being painstakingly renovated based on the standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Readers of Green Energy Times may recognize the LBC standard as a goal that is challenging to achieve in a new building. (For more information on the LBC, please see, “Wright Builders, Inc. Develops EarthKind Homes,” in the January, 2021 edition – www.bit.ly/390qSue).
The Living Building goals require attention to detail relating to everything in the structure and how it impacts the natural environment around it. Energy has to be examined, just as it would in a building that is to have net-zero emissions, but the same is true of all the materials the building is made of, including how they were produced and how they got to the site. And it is true of water, waste, areas around the building and so on.
Misha Golfman told us, “We completed a fully regenerative building, disconnected from fossil fuels. It uses only local resources.” Water and food come from sustainable sources, waste is composted or used for sustainability. It is important that they have achieved operations which are completely free of non-sustainable energy sources. No fossil fuels are used for light, heat, or operations. Firewood is harvested for heat. And the electricity all comes from the sun. (See Kroka’s ad on page 20)