Fall Farm Sprouts 2017 – Week #2 Wednesday AM

After just one week, most of us are feeling quite comfortable with our routines and the farm. We’ve observed children experience curiosity and wonder, heard some very thoughtful questions, and witnessed great joy and enthusiasm for learning about our local environment and the plants and animals living within it. We’re making discoveries and learning right along with our Farm Sprouts, modeling and sharing our love of learning as teachers and guides on the farm.

For our early literacy sign in activity, we found leaves with our names written on them and added the leaves to our indoor Farm Sprouts sugar maple tree. We worked on animal puzzles, played a harvest game, investigated various natural objects at our discovery table, or joined in pretend play with our wooden barn and farm animals.

We sang a greeting song in Spanish, as well as a name song in English. We thought about the changes that might take place on the farm in the fall. We were introduced to the word “phenology,” the study of cycles and natural phenomena, focusing on changes related to the climate and plant and animal life. Over the last fall season, we made careful observations of sunflowers. This season, we are observing trees to follow the interests of our children, specifically our apple and sugar maple trees. Farm Sprouts have been fascinated with our apple trees this season and those of us working on the farm have noticed this is a particularly great year for apples at MSU Tollgate Farm! You’ll notice a weekly photo capturing the same scene appear in our indoor classroom space for us to note changes over time along with some of the Farm Sprouts’ comments to accompany them.

On our way to the educational garden, we stopped to check on the growth of the lettuce seeds we had planted last week. Most of us measured growth at around 1 cm after one week. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to our lettuce with this unseasonably hot weather. While in the garden, we spotted tomatoes, herbs, onions, dahlias, squash, and more! We stopped to visit with a gardener, Mr. Don, who showed us vegetables that we can easily see above the ground, including carrots, beets, and potatoes.

We harvested raspberries, learning that the change of color from white or pink to red means they are ripe. Some noted that they pull off the bush much easier when they are red. We also spent time weeding and watering in the tomato garden. Each child had the opportunity to harvest a tomato for snack. Farm Sprouts spent time documenting their discoveries in their journals. This group was really interested in plants and we found some really fascinating ones, including Japanese lanterns.

We also cut down the heads of our mammoth sunflowers and the name surely fits their size! These sunflowers are very special to us. We grew sunflowers our very first spring season, two seasons ago, and have since harvested the seeds last fall, sprouted the seeds in our greenhouse this past April, transplanted them out in the garden in May, and now have the opportunity to harvest the seeds once again this fall! We were able to gently brush off the flowers to see the seeds below, a wonderful, tangible example of how a seed develops from a flower. The heads with hundreds of seeds are now drying in our greenhouse and we will soon harvest them for replanting. It’s a beautiful tradition we hope to carry on for many years to come. Clay Ottoni, a Master Beekeeper with SEMBA who works at our site, reported that he took some incredible photos of honeybees pollinating our sunflowers and that we should keep up the good work. We are grateful to have your children become part of this life cycle and tradition. We wonder who has been snacking on the seeds?

For animal chores, we had the task of caring for our chickens. We visited them in their coop and checked on their food and water. We collected eggs and spent time observing their behavior and took a close look at the anatomy of a hen. We touched a hen’s comb, feet, waddles, and feathers, a truly wonderful sensory experience! We’ll continue to compare and contrast the different animals on the farm and explore how they prepare for and stay healthy, warm, and safe as the weather grows colder.

We sang a fun song throughout the morning, called “What can a hen do?”

A hen can lay a big brown egg. (hold an imaginary egg)
A hen can stand on just one leg. (stand on one leg)
A hen can run. (run in place)
A hen can walk. (walk in place)
A hen can say “Bawk, bawk, bawk”. (make wings and cluck)
But do you know what a hen can’t do? (shrug and hold your hands up)
A hen can’t ______________ like you. (fill in with creative ideas, such as these ideas from Farm Sprouts: eat pizza, swim, go shopping, eat cake)

A trip to the educational garden is much like our traditional “Forest Day,” coming up in October, in that it takes nearly the entire program to make our way out there to explore and then return to the Activity Center. Upon our return, we prepared our snack and enjoyed the “fruits” of our labor… raspberries and tomatoes! We closed the day with gratitude and look forward to lots of fun playing with and tasting apples next week!

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