This Tuesday we experienced beautiful fall weather as we dove deeply into the exploration of some of our big questions. Farm Sprouts who are new to the farm have grown in their comfort of our farm-based educational setting. We heard a lot of questions and sharing of ideas, saw Farm Sprouts working together, and in general, witnessed a great deal of curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and adventure! Our routines have been developed and we can now navigate the farm and interact with our animals safely and productively. This is why we’ve waited until now to work with our larger animals. For those Farm Sprouts who have been with us for multiple seasons, we have seen them developing their skills as leaders and applying concepts learned in past seasons, such as the process of decomposition, plants and animals needs for survival, and life cycles. They are building new understandings of the interconnectedness of the living things, as well as the systems which exist at the farm.
Farm Sprouts signed in by stamping their favorite insect by his or her name. Some of these insects we’ve seen in our gardens and some we might find in the forest in a couple weeks. They voted for lettuce or carrots. All four groups of Farm Sprouts favored carrots, although we do have some “salad” lovers out there. Next week we will harvest our lettuce we’ve been growing, to feed both ourselves and the animals. Since there is a stronger interest in carrots, however, we will focus on carrots as a snack for our horses.
Farm Sprouts then went to work to prepare our snack for the day. We had the task of churning cream into butter. Our invitation to make butter included discussion on milk and its products, including lotion, soap, butter, and cheese! We also peeled apples to make applesauce and wondered about why apples have skin. One Farm Sprouts declared, “For protection!”
We gathered with our Spanish greeting song and recalled our experiences, thoughts, and ideas related to our driving questions, both child and teacher-created, in order to build connections. It was then time for a puppet show to explore some of these big questions and concepts! This was a very special legend about a sugar maple tree, forest and farm animals, and a farm with a green barn, written by Ms. Brooke specifically for our place, program project, and Farm Sprouts! They were enthralled with the puppets and greatly enjoyed meeting the cast at the end of the show! If you are interested in learning more about one thread running through the legend, read “Why Leaves Fall From Trees in Autumn” by Roger Di Silvestro on the National Wildlife Federation’s blog.
During our Invitations to Play, Farm Sprouts worked to harvest sunflowers. We thought and shared ideas about how a seed becomes a plant to make new seeds. They brought home an envelope with the sunflower seeds they harvested themselves. Farm Sprouts can plant these in the spring. Are you wondering when and how to do so? Late-April is a good time to germinate seeds indoors to transplant. We start ours in egg cartons in our greenhouse in the spring. These seeds are second generation grown and harvested by children in our program! Visit “Egg Carton Seed Starts” at PBS.org to view a “how-to” video with instructions, or visit our spring blog to see Farm Sprouts in action! Note: Our experience is that these seeds have a 50% germination rate. If you would like additional seeds, please let us know. We’ll have them available in the spring as well.
We also created nature collages with seeds and animal coverings. We thought more about seeds and how animals stay warm and dry.
It was then time to head out to accomplish some work around the farm. We stopped for a moment of physical activity at the straw maze. Farm Sprouts had the opportunity to develop their risk-taking skills by walking on the top of the straw bales. For many, this was pure joy and a challenge they welcomed. The risk of injury was very low, while reward and growth in self-confidence was great! The huge smiles on their faces is telling!
We took our weekly photo of the forest as a part of our phenology study. This week, we noticed the apples have now mostly fallen from the old apple tree and the trees in our forest are showing some bigger changes in colors!
We marched to the greenhouse to explore inside. Before entering we sang, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and touched our body parts in Spanish. We did this to work on body awareness and control, which is very important in our greenhouse. Currently, Dr. Garrett Owens, our resident floriculture expert, is doing research and we needed to take great care to respect his work. We are also working as scientists, so we located our pots of lettuce to take our weekly measurement and to graph growth.
It was then time to “Hunt the Cows.” We sang a fun song to get us in the mood and then we struck out to find and observe our cows. We noticed that cows are covered in fur and that they eat hay, drink water, and swish their tails to keep the flies away! They are also quite social, following us along the fence and coming right up to us to say hello in their cow language (Moo!) Maybe we have more in common with cows than we thought (other than the tails part!) We greeted them and bid farewell as well, saying, “¡Hola/Adiós vacas!” Some of us speak different languages, too!
In the Animal Barn, a first for some, we met our beloved goat, Jenna. We had the job of milking Jenna today, an important and time-consuming job at the farm. We learned she is a mammal and so are we! Both goats and people are covered in fur, make milk for their young, and are warm-blooded. We learned how to milk a goat and also a clue to how we know she is a prey creature (“eyes on the side, run and hide!”) We documented our interests, discoveries, and experiences in our journals before heading back towards the Activity Center for a well-earned snack.
For Harvest Snack, we tasted our butter and goat cheese on Wasa brand sourdough crackers. We also had local apple cider from Paramenter’s Cider Mill in Northville and our homemade applesauce made with MSU Tollgate apples.
We ended the day with the story, A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards. A smashed pumpkin discovery inspired interest in seeds and pumpkins, which we’ll plan to investigate next week. We closed with our goodbye routine. See you all next week!