For 40 years, Esalen Institute supported Gazebo School Park, an innovative experiment in education that expanded the human potential movement to the earliest years. The Gazebo approach viewed the child as capable and resourceful, and fostered independence and social awareness in a sensory-rich outdoor environment.
Founded in 1978 by Janet Lederman, Gazebo Park School represents an evolving philosophy through student-led, experiential, play-based learning encompassed by emotional intelligence, emergent curriculum, eco-literacy and land stewardship.
Gazebo methods are unique and differ from Montessori and Waldorf or other educational theories. Gazebo follows a unique set of guiding principles based on nature education, Gestalt practice and a creative experiene of the child and role of the teacher.
Gazebo evolved into a pillar of both the Esalen and Big Sur communities, providing care to Esalen staff, seminarians, and the local community. Following the 2017 road closure and ensuing financial crisis, the decision was made to close Gazebo’s doors. A resourceful, passionate group of stake-holders joined together in response.
Out of this collaborative, community-driven effort, Big Sur Park School has been created to support the families and children of Big Sur. The organization aims to develop a new nature-based early childhood program that draws from the cultural legacy of Gazebo and incorporates new innovations in education.
Exploration and inquiry, awareness of self-and others, and a connection with the natural world will be key components of the program.