by WSP 3rd Grade Teacher Susan Eggers
Third grade is a year of practical experiences in so many areas, from cooking to textiles to building. Children who have been engaging with our natural landscape of fields, meadows, gardens, forests, and creek now take a more active part in the stewardship of the land through weekly gardening classes.
A highlight for our third graders takes place each year in March, as winter turns to spring, when the class travels to a nature-based education center in upstate New York, the Hawthorne Valley Farm.
They live on the farm for a whole week, participating in a rich variety of activities. As this is a working dairy farm, producing yogurt and cheese, the children's first afternoon was spent getting to know and care for the cows. The week that we were there, five calves were born! There are chickens, sheep, pigs, and horses to feed twice a day. The students were eager to muck out stalls and freshen up the animals' quarters with sweet-smelling straw.
As the sap was gushing on the days we were visiting, the students helped carry buckets to be boiled down into sweet maple syrup. They also replanted willow saplings in wet areas in the woods, to help with water management.
At the end of the week, they returned to their families with a strong and real feeling of love for the land and pride in the care they had given to animals, the land and to each other during their week on the farm.