Artful Exploration: At Riverstone School a newly-erected teepee represents the intersection of culture, art, and history.

Ravalli Republic, written by Perry Backus, May 25, 2018.
View the original article here.

After weeks of fundraising, learning, practicing, and painting, students at Riverstone School erect a full-size teepee in honor of Native American culture, Montana history, and the unifying power of art.

On Thursday, May 24, a party gathered outside Riverstone School for a teepee-raising celebration. Hand-painted by the students, the teepee stands as a powerful reminder of where we are, who came before, and what promise the future holds.

“How can you know where to go if you don’t know where you’re at?” said Sarah Southwell, Founder and Executive Director of Riverstone School. “At Riverstone School, we believe in illuminating every child’s individual genius. This genius best emerges through a place-based, experiential learning journey in a holistic environment. Experiences like Coyote Camp and the Teepee raising help a child discover the land on which they’re standing to better explore the world.”

A fun introduction to entrepreneurship, students raised money to purchase the teepee and materials by selling artwork and gluten-free, dairy-free treats they made themselves at Riverstone’s 2017 Hamilton Farmer’s Market booth.

Under the guidance of art teacher Clare Ann Harff, students then worked together to decide on the design they would later hand-paint on the canvas.

But before raising, one last step remained: Coyote Camp at the Big Hole National Battlefield.

Through fun, interactive activities, students learned more about Native American culture and met Maurice Wilson, Nez Perce tribal member and medicine man, who gave his blessing to their teepee project.

At every step of the teepee project, from initial preparation to Thursday’s raising, students learned the meaning behind what they were doing.

“At Riverstone, we think it’s important for students to not only acknowledge other people and perspectives, but to understand and appreciate them on a deep level,” says Kayli Maffei, School Administrator.

“Art is a powerful unifier,” said Harff. “It’s a way to bridge cultural understandings and encourages students to express themselves in creative and compelling ways. Part of what makes this teepee project especially unique is that it is a springboard to learn about and appreciate on deeper levels where we live.”

Founded in 2016, Riverstone School is a one room schoolhouse that fosters patience, compassion and empathy among all students.

Drawing from Rudolph Steiner, John Dewey and others, Riverstone School encourages creativity in education through experiential learning.

Classes are small, collaborative and active. Situated on ABC Acres farm, the school house is LEED certified, nontoxic, commercial, safe and accepting. This allows students to enjoy a place-based education, fostering a better sense of the world around them and creating a truly experiential education.

Riverstone School will offer a full curriculum beginning this Fall.

To learn more about Riverstone’s project-based learning model and mission visit their booth at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market or go to