Imagine being given a seed, being told to plant it, then sit back and wait.  Unlike Jack and his beanstalk, you knew results would not be immediate.  You weren’t even told what the plant would look like when it sprouted and grew, but you knew it would benefit a lot of people of all ages. You knew you could prune and trim and shape the plant and that watering, composting and mulching the plant would help it to grow and reach its full purpose and potential, all in good time.
That ‘seed’ was given to Dennis and Sandy Cooper in 2002 by a man named James Nelson, a visionary who lived in Wilder, Idaho.  ‘Jim’ was a man who seemed to be tethered to the earth by strings, as he had his head and his heart in the clouds, dreaming  and sharing what to many people sounded impossible, or a best improbable.   He occasionally needed a tug to bring him back to earth before he soared off again.  He was large of body, spirit, and heart.
Jim’s abiding dream was to develop a place where families could come together and learn; he called it a “family lifelong learning center.”  It was a wonderful idea. But dreams, much like a handful of wonderful seeds, need a permanent place to grow, and someone to care for them, nurture them and help them grow.  The time for planting must be right as well.
That seed has finally found its season and is well on its way to growing into being.  The Bee Tree Folk School has found a home in Billings Gymnasium on the campus of the old Intermountain Institute, right next to Slocum Hall, at 2155 Paddock Avenue.  
Jim’s idea and dream wasn’t so improbable as there is a rapidly growing ‘folk’ school movement within the United States with over 200 active schools across the country.  The idea is an old one, based on a concept developed by N.F.S. Grundtvig, (1783-1872) a Danish pastor, author, poet, philosopher, historian, teacher and politician who felt that the classical education of that era, with its emphasis on Latin and Greek studies, created divisiveness between life and learning.  He wanted to create an educational opportunity for the people who made up a majority of Denmark’s population, farmers and other rural people. He wanted to instill a love of lifelong learning, dignity and pride in the national culture.
He saw a need for places where students could come and learn practical skills where a spirit of freedom and disciplined creativity were promoted.  He was against exams, competitive environments and grading and encouraged cooperation and personal exploration and discovery.  
The folk high schools in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries continue this concept today, where many high school graduates spend a year studying and living full-time at the folk high school where they are able to explore their natural talents  and understand their own identity before going on to universities or other pursuits.  Grundtvig also felt this could  strengthen and empower communities and develop a sense of democracy.
About fifty folk schools were founded in Denmark between 1850 and 1870.  Grundtvig did not found any schools himself, but his philosophy was put into practice by others who believed that everyone should have the opportunity to develop their own intrinsic abilities at these “Schools for Life,” as he called them.
Folk schools honor the culture, relationship, and community empowerment that comes from the development of personal learning and life.  The schools honor history, foster collaboration, and tie together resources within a communities.
Bee Tree Folk School was established as a 501 ( c ) 3 nonprofit corporation for charitable and educational purposes and as such, is eligible to accept tax deductible donations and grants.  The corporation’s name says a lot about the organization’s philosophy and mission as well.  The founding board members, Dennis and Sandra Cooper and Gary Eller, organized  “Co-Opportunities, Inc.” as a way for other nonprofits and organizations or groups to work together, (“opportunities to cooperate”) to more fully reach each organization’s full potential, following Grundtvig’s philosophy.  
There is room for teachers, students, ideas for classes, and volunteers.  There will be a work party on January 20th at “The Grotto,” the basement of Billings Gym, where a performance stage is located.  It is being readied for performances during the Bluegrass Guitar Camp on April 13 and 14th and the Bluegrass Banjo Camp May 17-20 both organized by Gary Eller and  hosted by the National Oldtime Fiddlers at Slocum Hall, a perfect example of the cooperation and sharing of resources.  If you would like to help at the work party or would like more information on how to be more involved, please contact Dennis or Sandy at 208 907-0233 or on Facebook at Bee Tree Folk School. 
Classes begin this Thursday January 11 with twice a month harmonica lessons.  Bring a diatonic harmonica in the key of “C,” if you have one.  The first meeting will be primarily an organizational one, but bring your harmonicas as well. The “Harmonica Collective” will meet at 7 p.m. in Slocum Hall as it has handicap accessibility.  There will also be a ‘Ukelele Group’ the following Thursday, January 18 at 7:00 the same location. ( Ken has some great ukuleles and harmonicas at Pickers’ Paradise, if you need to get one!)
Work on the gymnasium will continue this winter and some classes and events will be held there beginning in April and May.  Classes are being scheduled year-round and there will be special classes for younger children and families.  A catalog will be coming soon and additional upcoming classes will be listed on the website and Facebook page.  If you have an idea for a class, either to attend or teach, contact the school.