No screens allowed: Clintonville mother opens "nature" school

Red Oak Community School has a "no screens allowed" policy. (WSYX/WTTE)

Students don't carry cell phones. They don't use iPads. They don't type on a computer keyboard.

They're all enrolled in a new school that is more "old school."

"We are an elementary/middle school," said Cheryl Ryan. "We teach the same stuff, we just do it outside."

Ryan, a Clintonville mother, opened and operates the day-to-day operations of Red Oak Community School on the northeast side of Columbus.

The best description is a "nature immersion school," according to Ryan.

Students spend two hours, just under half of their school day, outside, rain or shine.

"There is something about the color of the sky, the leaves, the sounds of nature that calms their brains, so that when they go inside, they can learn."

Technically, all of the students at Red Oak are home-schooled. They're just home-schooled together.

I don’t come at this as a researcher. I’m a mom, and I know what works for my kid. We are all just parents who knew what would work for our kids, so we just did it.

Ryan said she created the school with other parents who were not satisfied with the current public school options or charter options for their children.

Red Oak's curriculum focuses more on lessons and less on grades, Ryan said.

"We don’t do testing. We don’t do grades. We don’t do homework because none of those things make any sense. A lot of learning is failing and making mistakes. If you put a letter grade on it, they focus on the failure and not what they're learning from that situation."

Ryan does not have a background in education and points out that she is not a teacher at the school.

"I never set out to create a nature school," she said. "I just wanted a place for my kid to learn."

The school is growing in enrollment and in physical size. Ryan is in the fundraising process to expand the campus.

She said people often refer to the school as a 'hippie' school.

"That's OK," she joked. "We own it."

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