TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A California-based company has created natural classrooms in Sebring for students to enjoy.

Living Earth Structures” and its owner, Miguel Elliott, have been in Florida for about a year.

Elliott told WFLA.com that he built the four classrooms in Sebring. The classrooms are built out of foam, cardboard and “Earthen Adobe” plaster. They were built at a site called “The PARC” in Citrus County. The property itself is zoned as agricultural and as the structures are being used for educational purposes, Elliott said no permits are required.

The school is called “The Academy at the PARC” and according to Elliott, it teaches “basic arithmetic, English, reading, science, and history but a main focus of the school is on the arts and nature awareness and appreciation.”

Gabriele Beland, the curriculum coordinator and administrator at the Academy at PARC, said the school has two components, including a homeschool learning pod for children and practical art classes open to the public. Beland said, “PARC” stands for Practical Arts Resort Campus.”

“There are lots of opportunities for the children to engage in hands-on activities and experiential learning. There is somewhat of a Waldorf-themed curriculum that the teachers used to guide the teaching process,” Elliott said.

“The children are divided into age groups for the morning hours and go into the cob classrooms to do book work and academics. Depending on the age, they either do a nature-based curriculum or a homeschool curriculum with your typical school topics,” Beland explained.

In the afternoon, students go to the main building to learn practice arts, which change every few weeks. This year, students will be doing hands-on projects in drawing, leather work, woodworking, nature study, archery, nature survival, mixed-media art and more. Kids also have a “farm chore to introduce them to farm life and accountability,” according to Beland.

“These classes either take place in one of the cob classrooms, built by Miguel, or in our ‘Big Barn,’ multi-sue space or in the garden, or outdoor kitchen, or in the 30 acres of wooded land adjacent to the PARC, depending on the needs of each class,” said Beland. 

Practical art classes open to the public are a work in progress, but Beland said in the next year, the Academy at PARC plans to offer a multitude of classes like blacksmithing, gardening, fermentation and food preservation, fiber arts, forest bathing, seed preservation and more.

“The [structures] offer a excellent demonstration model for super low cost easy-to-build, fire-resilient, well insulated and durable structures,” Elliott said.

Previously, Elliott created a “clay oven” at a Sebring restaurant called “Faded.” The restaurant has a canal which “floats pizza around, similar to a sushi bar.”

In Nov. 2021, Elliott taught a cob building class at the school, building the oven.

“It was a lot of work, but we fell in love with this type of building so much.  We needed classrooms for our microschool starting up, so we asked Miguel if he was up for the challenge of building 4 classrooms for the Academy,” said Beland. “Now, 9 months later, the children get to learn in a beautiful space, surrounded by earth, a living breathing structure, that they helped to build. Not many children can say that they got their hands dirty to build their own learning space. Miguel really has an eye to details in making these classrooms into an inspiring learning environment. 

Beland said the Academy at PARC website is currently under construction and those interested in finding out more should visit The Sebring Institute online for the meantime.