Carbondale New School

Serving Southern Illinois since 1974

The mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled

About Forts

Patrick D. Rollinson, father of former CNS Student Winfrid D. Rollinson

As a child I lived in a rural southern Illinois in a time when children pretty much ran free around here (well up there in Marion County). I had access to woods, many woods; all that were within a mile of my home in probably any direction. The opportunity to take up the makeshift construction of shelters and forts presented itself easily and my comrades and I built many, far and wide in that mile radius, in little copses and deep woods. We drew out plans, and schemed how to get the supplies and tools we needed for these imperious structures. It was the joy of my young life, and a lifelong memory I still carry with me. When you use the "lumber" nature has provided, that is, fallen limbs, and that people leave behind, namely discarded lumber, the bits and pieces left behind, you are given the opportunity to use all your design faculties combined with your ingenuity, and all the creativity you have, to see the thing to make something with, and then the thing you will make with it.

So it was with great and wonderful surprise in the more "urbane" (for Southern Illinois) environs of Carbondale I discovered the school that my son, wife and I had chosen for him to go to actually allowed liberal outdoor play, and encouraged their kids to build with the materials that lay under the great towering pines and explore those open grounds on the forest eve--I was ecstatic! Winfrid inherited the chief fort building from Patrick (not myself, but another CNS student). Who continues the practice to the degree they did I am uncertain, but my hope would be it would continue. I watched over the years and was surprised at how much the values of CNS were portrayed in the fort building, whether it be the inculcation of creative and individual thinking and development, or the inevitable need for conflict resolution (as young folk with limited resources and differing design ideas will at some point find themselves at odds with other's limited resources and differing design ideas). At CNS the basic values and the educational concepts being used permeate even in play, so the play is learning. Building, creating, and learning how to do this with limited resources, that are also being competed for is so well represented at CNS. A child who has the opportunity to create, to hold value in a creation, to design space, and use of available material is given so many opportunities to grow and flourish...this is but one representation of CNS.