By the end of the class, the students and I came to the consensus that our vision was a "sustainable farm for education." The possibilities for enriching the educational experience of students are endless. For instance, imagine how you could integrate any of the following subjects by having students doing real things on the farm:
- Math ~ Students could be the accountants of the farm and track expenses versus profits;
- Science ~ Students could research how to create betters soils and create and maintain a compost pile using the leftovers from the lunch room, the grass clippings from the lawn, and the weeds from the farm.
- Industrial Arts ~ Students could research and design a mobile chicken coop;
- English ~ Students could create and share all types of multi-media projects to document what's happening on the farm: blogs, movies, Power Point presentations . . .
- Social Studies ~ Students could research and give presentations on the history of agricultural policy in the United States in the last 100 years. This sounds boring, but actually, we studied this a little bit, and it's fascinating.
- Spanish ~ Students could create and install signs with all the relevant Spanish vocabulary for different farm activities.
For this week's assignment, I'm very curious as to how you might assess, critique, or react to the idea of starting an educational farm. Good idea? Bad idea? Crazy idea? We imagined that there would be a core group of twenty to forty high school students who would be the primary caretakers of the farm.
Would you watch one or two of the student documentary films below and offer your assessment of any aspect of this idea keeping in mind the mission statement and goals which you can find below? For example, you could dig into any of the following related topics:
- Can you give specific examples of authentic, engaging, and educational projects that students could do in connection with a farm in different subject areas?
- What other age groups of students and academic subjects could be involved? How?
- Would you add, remove, or amend other goals or core values?
- How would the school most effectively offer incentives for 20 to 40 high school students to work and learn at the farm all summer? Think big and "outside the box."
- How do you make sure that there's basically always someone who knows what he or she is doing at the farm 24 / 7 / 365?
- How do you pay for all of this?
- What are potential problems with this whole idea?
- How do you compel the community to support such a grand endeavor?
- All ideas are welcome . . . and if you have a really good idea, maybe we'll steal it.
- And finally, please be mindful that all of this is just an idea at this point. There's some talk, and there's some interest, but there's absolutely no funding so far.
- On entertaining ambitious plans, however, Henry David Thoreau advises: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is where they should be. Now put your foundations under them."
DOCUMENTARY MOVIES ~ Click on the names below to view their final projects:
- Tina Moore, Erin Gallagher, and Sal Maicki
- Makiah Eveland
- Zoey Werme (password = foodmatters)
- Alex Dewitt, Jacob Taylor, and Noah Munley-Hanscom
- Joe Brown and Jacob Holtsclaw
A sustainable farm for education
To promote the wellness of soils, plants, animals, and people through education on a sustainable farm.
- Healthy soil is the foundation of wellness.
- Use the processes of Nature.
- Grow and rotate a diversity of crops.
- Engage in active, hands-on learning.
- Honor individual interest while trying new things.
- Treat all life with respect.
- Understand the origins of our food.
- Grow, prepare, and share delicious foods.
Phase I Goals (first three years?)
- To obtain a piece of land and secure funding
- To obtain a large hoop house and other necessary equipment and tools
- To create high-quality compost
- To grow several types of vegetables
- To raise chickens for eggs and/or meat
- To sell healthy products to earn money to defray expenses
- To educate students on the individual, community, and environmental benefits of eating and farming locally and sustainably
- To increase the number of students involved
- To engage with experts from the community
Phase II Goals (first ten years?)
- To maintain a variety of animals, such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, bees, goats, pigs, cows, and horses
- To obtain the necessary facilities and technology to educate a growing number of people
- To promote better nutrition through teaching how to cook from scratch with local and seasonal ingredients
- To offer classes in cooking, canning, and gardening
- To get fresh, organic produce into school lunches
- To expand and diversify the variety of crops
- To hire a farm caretaker
- To earn steady income for the operation of the farm from selling through Community Supported Agriculture and Farmers’ Markets