Farm School

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” –Maria Montessori

My son, Jack, had a busy week. He worked at Ms. Theri’s farm. Jack has been at Ms. Theri’s farm (Bertrand Farm in Niles, Michigan) one afternoon a week, every week, for five years at school. Before that he spent every opportunity possible among the chickens and the tomatoes. In the summer, he has often joined Ms. Theri’s farm camp, and now, entering sixth grade, he is a junior counselor of sorts.

When Jack was very little, one of his favorite things to do was reach under a chicken and triumphantly pull out an egg.  He knew the ins and outs of a farm in ways I had not imagined.

One fall many years ago, we were visiting my sister and we decided to make pumpkin pie. My sister opened up her pantry, pulled out a can of pumpkin, and put the can on the counter. Jack stared at it, and finally asked, “What are you going to do with that?” He had never seen pumpkin in a can before, and wondered where the pumpkin was that we were going to cut in half and bake in order to make the pie (he knows the difference between a pie pumpkin and a regular pumpkin).

When we opened Good Shepherd in 2002, we wanted a farm school component, and Theri was a longtime friend (our son Liam’s godmother) and a teacher who had bought a farm and wanted to turn it into a place for transformative learning and community gardening. Eight years later, the farm school is a staple at Good Shepherd, and her farm cooperative/CSA is feeding many, many families.

The children go to the farm to be with the land, to be with their roots. The children go to the farm to experience the botany and zoology they tap into in the classroom. The children go to the farm to see where food comes from, to help plant and harvest, to research animals and purchase chicks and piglets, even to experience, as some did this year on the other farm we visit (Prairie Winds Farm in Lakeville, IN), the birth of a calf. The children go to the farm to be connected to each other, to the land, and to the universe itself.

At the farm the children can stand in awe of God and show gratitude for all the people and animals who work today so hard to share food with us. They are also grateful for all the people who did this for generations upon generations to create and hand down culture.

Jack in a beekeeper's suit at Prairie Winds Farm

They get dirty and they shovel manure and they fix fences and they learn like crazy.

We were interested to see recently that there is even a phenomenon being discussed called “nature deficit disorder.” It seems we wanted to address this disorder before we knew it was defined as such. Additionally, we are learning that children spending even one half hour in nature, truly in nature, can have an orienting effect that helps with ADHD-like behaviors.

Early on, someone pointed out to me that one afternoon each week at the farm amounts to ten percent of the entire school week, and didn’t I think that was an excessive amount of time for a non-academic activity? I asked if that person had ever been to the farm, because if so they would certainly encounter the quality of learning, the depth of understanding, and the very joy connected to this messy, chicken-laden, sheep-filled, asparagus-lined, manure-scattered window to the universe. No, it is not an excessive amount of time. Just ask Jack.

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Explore posts in the same categories: elementary education, farm school, Montessori, Montessori Method

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