Schooled by Community

Maggie and Milo work with the young students in their climate change class.

For Kate and Jason, education was a key reason for choosing to join Cohousing ABQ, a cohousing community breaking ground this year in Albuquerque, NM. “We’ve been homeschooling because we want to give our children experiences beyond the basic academics of traditional school,” Kate explained. “In cohousing, they’ll regularly interact with and learn from community members with an impressive range of knowledge and skills beyond our own.”

Even in these many months prior to the community’s construction, the children of Cohousing ABQ have enjoyed numerous learning opportunities, whether it be trips to museums and a working farm, making apple cider or clay monsters, or more formalized classes from community adults.

For example, Maggie, an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico, decided several months ago to begin a series of classes to teach the children about climate change. “For the most part, we’re talking about children from age 3 to age 7, but I had no doubt we could do it, especially once I enlisted 11-year-old Milo to help me. I’ve long been a believer that children are natural teachers—particularly with other children. And I find that kids have all sorts of clever ways of explaining things.”

Maggie and Milo prepared for their climate classes with gusto, meeting two or three times per class to decide on the content to cover. They particularly focused on what this age group would understand. “For example, for water usage we first familiarized the children with different volumes—a gallon of water versus three gallons versus five gallons—and then talked about how much water is used for things like teeth brushing, taking a bath, or flushing the toilet.”


Milo explains how carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere heats up the Earth.

Reflecting how young children learn best, lecture is kept to 5 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of snacks, then 45 minutes of hands-on activities.

In one class, Milo used simple props—a globe, a kitchen towel, and a blanket—to demonstrate how too much carbon dioxide is being trapped in the atmosphere and overheating the earth. Using YouTube videos, Maggie led the children in creating solar ovens (using pizza boxes), and water filters (using plastic bottles, coffee filters, and charcoal) in true DIY style.

There are no quizzes or tests in these classes. “It’s not critical at this stage that children understand everything with great accuracy,” Maggie pointed out. “As long as they remember some of it, and realize there are simple things they can do related to climate change.”


Building homemade water filters offers lessons on water conservation as well as geology.


Was 11-year-old Milo nervous about his teaching role? “No. I knew the material and I’ve taught younger kids before.” Maggie added that he’s also a natural showman. Other community children are also considering teaching. Ori has indicated an interest in oceans and waterways (although his current focus is Pokemon) and Quincy wants to talk about marine mammals: two new teachers in the making.


There is one change that Maggie and Milo are considering for future classes. After an almost slapstick scene in which making and serving Hibiscus-flower tea ended in three cups knocked over, tea everywhere, and two wet kids, they’ve decided it’s safer to move snacks to the end of the class. Lesson learned.


Apple picking and processing provided another learning opportunity at Cohousing ABQ.

Category: Living in Cohousing


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