Think back to your school years. What were the most memorable experiences? For most of us, working and visiting with people and places from outside of our day-to-day school environment are among the most memorable.
Studies show that the most effective education stems from real world applications in which students learn organically as a result of their school work. But, with budget cuts limiting field trip opportunities, avenues for teachers to provide field experiential learning are dwindling.
Not so at Seacoast Waldorf School. Last week the third grade students embarked on their third field trip of the year – this time to Wolf’s Neck Farm a historic 626 acre farm on the Maine coast dedicated to sustainable agriculture, environmental education, and community well-being.
Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education - integrating the arts, practical arts and academics in order to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. In Waldorf, the third grade curriculum includes an introduction to the basic practical aspects of food and shelter. Third graders are given an opportunity to work on the farm, where they learn about barnyard structures, livestock practices and agriculture.
At Wolf’s Neck Farm, surrounded by beautiful green pastures overlooking Casco Bay, the Seacoast Waldorf School third graders soaked up three days of sunshine while exploring life on the farm.
The first afternoon, after a tour of the farm, collecting more than two dozen eggs, and watching the ducks take a bath, the class headed to their campsite along the water’s edge via a hay wagon ride. Once at the campsite, they ate lunch, explored the shore, and unpacked their gear before heading back to the farm for more farm chores. Then, back to the camp site to set up their tents and settle in for a fitting meal of shepherds’ pie.
The following day, waking to the sound of hungry cows moo-ing, the third graders tended to the animals and then helped pick carrots, blue cabbage and other produce in preparation for the Freeport Farmer’s Market. That night, they bundled up and had lasagna by firelight before s’mores and a game of glow-tag.
The final day included collecting more eggs and feeding the pigs before packing up the campsite and heading back to school. The three days on the farm provided the children with dynamic, hands-on education about the food we eat, the animals and plants we depend on, and the environment around us.
“I loved all the animals: the pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, ducks and rabbits, ” said third-grader, Seamus. “Each day, we fed the animals, made sure they had fresh water, and played with them. We even got to work together to help corral the sheep so they could get shorn.”