Reading, Writing and Raising Hens?
Dec 28, 2011
Your child may have no intention of becoming a farmer. Perhaps even having a garden as an adult is unlikely. Still, as students around the country are learning, when schools add farming to the school day, students benefit in numerous ways.
A New Old Trend
At elite prep schools, rural boarding schools and even some public schools, students are quite literally getting their hands dirty as a part of their education. The schools are offering students the opportunity to care for livestock, such as chickens, and tend to a panoply of produce. For many students, it's the first time they're seeing an uncooked squash, learning how potatoes grow or finding out just how much weeding a garden requires.
At some schools, such as Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding school in Iowa, farming has held an integral place in the curriculum since the 19th century. Other schools are returning to farming, though it was a part of their original mission. While the role of farming in student life disappeared in the early to mid-20th century at many of these schools, it has a new relevance today. This is the case at Loomis Chaffee School and Hotchkiss School, both in Connecticut.
The Benefits of Farm Learning
The students who experience farming as part of their education may not pursue a career in agriculture, but that's often beside the point. The work challenges students in a way that classroom work and sports can't replicate. It broadens their perspective on the world while helping them understand a job that is essential to the survival of the human race.
Furthermore, farming can provide a peaceful and calming break from other schoolwork. This is especially true at prestigious prep schools where the students are under intense pressure to excel. While students are weeding, picking peas or feeding chickens, the otherwise breakneck pace of their lives slows down. They must be present in the moment, away from their laptops and out in the sunshine.
Homework for Lunch
An even more significant effect that farming has on students is evident exactly where you might expect it: the cafeteria. Students are more likely to eat healthy fruits and vegetables if they have the pride of growing and harvesting them, as well as the knowledge of the effort required to get that produce from a seed to their plates. As an added benefit, the food students help to produce allows the school to provide locally-grown and, typically, more chemical-free food than they might otherwise.
The healthy food habits that farming may foster in these students will hopefully last into their adult lives. By developing an appreciation of the farm-to-table concept while in school, students may be more inclined to eat more natural foods, as opposed to heavily processed foods, and to shop at local farmer's markets. That's a lesson that's worth rolling up your sleeves to learn.
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