Connecting Children to Nature through Farming & Gardening

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air is softer and the morning more fragrant than ever again. — Elizabeth Lawrence

Last May I had the good fortune to accompany the third grade class from Prairie Hill Waldorf School on an overnight farm trip to Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia, IL. The trip was the culmination of a year spent expanding their knowledge of the earth and the role that plants, animals, and humans serve on it. Throughout the year, third graders participated in daily chores, cared for a flock of chickens and collected their eggs, studied and built models of traditional shelters from around the world, built raised garden beds using hand tools, and planted a vegetable garden. Through these hands-on, experiential lessons, the children gained knowledge beyond that which is learned in books, deepening their connection to nature that leads to a greater sense of stewardship toward the earth.

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A wonderful setting to cultivate a child’s connection to the earth

When we arrived at Angelic Organics, we were warmly welcomed and guided to a beautiful group camping area nestled among large oak trees and views of scenic pastures where cows grazed in the distance. After working together to set up camp, the children were give a bit of free time to explore the area, check out the composting toilets, and sneak a peek at the family of goats in a nearby barn.

Once settled in, our two highly skilled farm educators introduced us to the working farm, shared the farm rules with us, and provided an organized overview of our stay. Over the two days, students (broken into groups) prepared and cooked meals for the group, worked together to clean up after meals, weeded and prepared raised garden beds and planted seeds, shoveled and hauled manure for compost, completed animal chores for the resident chickens, goats, pigs, and cattle, milked goats, and made goat milk ice cream. As both a parent and a teacher, it was impressive to watch the children give their full hearts over to the tasks at hand — they were completely absorbed in their good work. I watched as groups of children cooperatively solved problems, divided up tasks, and worked effectively as a team.

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Children participated in multiple farm chores

In addition to participating in farm chores and tasks, students were given an opportunity to tour the farm and follow the journey of a seed — from when it is first planted in the greenhouse to the planting of vegetable starts out in the rich soil of the farm fields. It was a wonderful opportunity for the children to see the work that goes into growing vegetables.

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Learning about goats and how to care for them

Beyond the deeper appreciation and gained knowledge of how our food is produced was the ability of students to participate in the cyclical nature of the overall farm ecosystem. From participating in the nitrogen cycle through the use of the composting toilets, to shoveling manure to create compost that will someday be used on the gardens, the children experienced firsthand how the different processes and organisms work together to create a healthy farm and healthy food. Being absorbed in the beautiful farm setting, paired with skilled and caring farm educators, provided a rich learning experience that I’m certain will remain with the children for the rest of their lives.

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Group camping area

 

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Making goat milk ice cream

Article originally posted on the Biodynamic Association blog.

3 Comments

  1. What an incredible experience! My daughter attends “farm camp” in the summer for a week each year and comes away with an incredibly wealth of knowledge and self-confidence. Giving children exposure to farm life and where their food comes from does amazing things.

    1. What a great opportunity for her! I so wish that farming and gardening was integrated into every school in America. Imagine the impact it would have on so many different levels!

    2. YES! I have seen a great shift in her awareness about the environment and where her food comes from. I feel like it’s certainly helped foster an awareness of how precious our planet is.

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