Peter Kindfield surrounded by children at the Farm School in Tennessee. Kindfield advocates immersive, project-based learning for children, the actions that follow intentions. Outdoor learning is a big part of his teaching approach.       Photo by Sarah Martin

Peter and Ann Kindfield, recent arrivals, bring an extraordinary level of teaching experience and academic accomplishments to the Hill. Both have doctorates from the University of California, Berkeley, in science and mathematics education.

Peter Kindfield
Photo courtesy Peter Kindfield

Both have long careers in education, including as educational researchers, professors at major universities, public-school teachers and teachers in alternative community schools in which project-based curricula are used to develop students into active and engaged lifelong learners.

As Peter explains their evolution as teachers, they have moved from standard current teaching methods to what he calls immersive and emergent education — a model in which the student drives educational growth through project-based experiential learning.

Peter notes that children are naturally inquisitive but that current educational methods often stifle students’ natural inquisitiveness by mandating teaching to the test, with unnatural walls between subjects. As a science and math teacher, Peter took children into outdoor natural settings for observation and questioning. “Outdoor education is so valuable in general,” he said, “so many things that get students learning and wondering. My way of doing is to walk along with the children and let them learn along the way and build on what they see.

“As a child, I loved learning but hated school. There was so much I wanted to learn and understand, but in school I was simply expected to do as I was told. I just didn’t fit into the one-size-fits-all model of education. My early educational experiences and 40 years of working with other people who didn’t fit the mold have helped me become the learning facilitator I am today.

“I believe that all people are unique with our own strengths, challenges, experiences, and interests and that the best way to support learning is to start where each learner is and help them expand and extend their interests, experiences, and expertise from there.”

The Kindfields come to Idyllwild from 15 years in Summertown, Tennessee, where both were part of an intentional community called The Farm. Peter served as principal and full-time science and math teacher at The Farm School and Ann served as Farm School administrator, part-time teacher in biology, communication arts and remedial reading, as well as lecturer at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. “We wanted to be in an educational environment that understood people learn by doing things, by watching others, by intention and action, not by being taught to take tests,” Peter recounted.

The Kingsfields are from the East, Peter from Manhattan and Ann from Pittsburgh. Their teaching careers include service in New York, New Jersey, the Bay Area in California and in Tennessee. And in a not uncommon thread, they have come to Idyllwild responding to a “call” to be here. Said Peter, “I think the best way for me to describe what I meant when I said I felt called here is that since our first visit, I have had a recurring and growing feeling each time I have encountered a new place or person, that I belong here.”

Peter explains that at age 19, he came to Palm Springs because his grandfather owned a furniture store there. Although attracted to California by that visit, he wanted a greener place to be, not knowing that Idyllwild, just on top of the mountain, was the greener place he was looking for.

While in Tennessee and while thinking of relocating, he reconnected with a cousin who had shared his time in Palm Springs. The cousin suggested he and Ann would like Idyllwild. They visited last winter and just completed their cross-country drive from Tennessee to their new home in Pine Cove.

And unlike many who fall in love with Idyllwild and move here to duplicate the life they had elsewhere in this new setting, the Kindfields say they are bringing their experience and skill sets and will wait to see what the community and the mountain might want from them. “I teach tai chi, permaculture and am experienced in teaching and tutoring students,” he said. “We have formed a company called Hilltop Education Connections as a base for providing emergent learning support in the ‘academic’ areas with a focus on science, math, technology, permaculture and outdoor education for one-of-a-kind learners residing in or visiting the Idyllwild area. Our general approach is to help people pursue their interests, and expand and extend their experiences in ways that connect deeply with their everyday lives.”

They are upbeat and positive about their move and the services they can provide to others. In addition to their doctoral degrees, Peter holds a master’s in educational psychology from U.C. Berkeley and a bachelor’s in psychology from U.C. Santa Cruz. Ann holds a master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology from U.C. Santa Cruz and a bachelor’s in biology from Pennsylvania State University.

For more information about their educational philosophy and mission, visit www.hilltopeducation.com.

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