Spring Farm Sprouts 2018 – Week #1 Wednesday PM

Our first week of Farm Sprouts for the spring season brought on a mix of weather, but some windy, slightly damp moments didn’t stop the enthusiasm for settling into our learning routines on the farm! Initially, we focus on developing a sense of place and community, familiarizing ourselves with each other in our new learning groups, with some of our animals, and the flow of the program. While the development of cognitive skills is one component, we believe in an educational approach which supports the whole child, meaning we also support children’s social, emotional, and physical development. Each child is in different places in terms of strengths and areas of improvement and adults are no different! We are all working on something! As teachers, we are learning too, right alongside Farm Sprouts. By sharing our thought processes and modeling scientific thinking practices (questioning, observing, predicting, problem solving) we help to build skills and promote a lifelong love of learning.

In the spirit of April showers and the mud they make, Farm Sprouts signed in by tracing the first letter of their names in the mud. We like to give children a voice in their learning and accomplish that in many different ways. One small way is by asking them to vote upon arrival. This week they voted for ducks or chickens. Ducks won the vote by all groups, yet for those few who cast in favor of chickens, they can take heart to know we will soon be spending a fair amount of time exploring chickens and embryology. Eggs are quite fascinating and each spring we add a new layer of learning to our knowledge base. We’ll be sure to share some of our great discoveries with all of you, too! For example, did you know that the study or collection of bird eggs is called oology? That means this spring, we will all become oologists! Neat!

Farm Sprouts explored the classroom, visited and cared for Coltrane, our red-bellied river cooter turtle, personalized their farm journals, and trimmed sunflower shoots with scissors in preparation for our snack.

We gathered as a large group to get to know each other’s names with the help of Laurie Berkner’s Pig on her Head song. We didn’t actually keep any animals on our head all day.

We had an amazing inquiry-based discussion focusing on bees! A few Farm Sprouts discovered a dead bee in an insect container on our discovery table and it spurred a lot of interest. Last fall, Farm Sprouts were also very intrigues by bees, with one group in part due to us stumbling onto a bumblebee nest in our raspberry patch, and we suspected this could be a hot topic of interest for investigation this season.

It was then time to head outside for our Invitations to Play, Explore, and Discover! We met under the pavilion today because of the on and off April showers. In the sensory table, there was corn, animals, and scoops. We took a look at a photo of honeybees visiting flowering corn plants. Although corn is considered to be a wind-pollinated plant, bees do visit and end up disturbing the pollen. We’ll be diving deeper into bees and pollination as the May flowers appear.

We had two additional projects this first week. One was a planting project through the support of our resident greenhouse and floriculture specialist, Dr. Garrett Owen. He is working on research in our Tollgate greenhouse and had small French marigold plugs to share with us. We reused the pots from one of his experiments to transfer them. We noted the “white, stringy things” (roots) were all bunched up and wondered if they might need more space. Farm Sprouts thought together about what the little plants might need to grow, deciding upon sunlight and water. “Dirt” was also mentioned, leading us to introduce the word “soil” and inspiring some potential experimentation to help us understand the difference. Farm Sprouts did the work of transferring the plants to the larger pots and were given the task of finding a place at home to give it care and love. We’ll invite them to share what they observe happening and to move their plant outside once the potential for frost has passed. How can people grow healthy plants? Who might visit the plant once it’s placed outside? How do plants help insects? Encourage your child to consider these questions and to care for and observe their plant! We also worked on a painting project which will come home next week.

Many thanks to Dr. Garrett for supporting our program this first week!

We were feeling ready for a snack, so made our way to the Activity Center via our Children’s Garden to wash our hands and sit down to enjoy our sunflower shoots. To help make them a bit more appealing to Farm Sprouts, we created a spread to serve on either sliced baguette or crackers, made with very simple ingredients, and called it “Sparty toast.” It was quite well received! Many were adventurous and at least gave it a try! Our garden snack is a collaborative effort with our Sustainable Agriculture team at Tollgate. Beginning in late-May, they offer shares as a part of their Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) program. This program is full for the 2018 season, but you can still stop by on Wednesdays from 4:30-6:30 p.m. to purchase some of their produce at our small Farmer’s Market. We thank this team for all of the support they provide our program.

Sparty Toast Recipe

1 12 oz. cream cheese
1 avocado
1 cup sunflower shoots (more information here)
1/4 wedge lemon, juiced

Blend and spread on sliced baguette or crackers.

We marched on to play a fun game called, Red Frog, Green Frog. Ask your children how to play! This game help us with developing self-control and listening skills, maintaining safety, and is a whole lot of fun!

We made our way to the shed where our duck feed is stored in preparation for our duck hunt. We practiced moving quietly and slowly, just as a duck might waddle along, making a few small quacks on the way. We located not only our white, Pekin ducks near the pond, but also Canadian geese, and a pair of mallard ducks! So many feathery animals to observe! We wondered about what and how they eat and how they stay dry and warm despite their very wet lifestyle and also hiked by our pastures to visit our large animals.

To conclude the day, we read a very special story called If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Wilson. It captured the hearts and minds of Farm Sprouts, spurring thought on what it means to be a friend and just a good person in this world, touching on sharing, collaboration, and simple kindness. These are themes which will run through our program this season. We welcome all of you as a part of our farm community this spring and look forward to the many more adventures we have to come! Oh, and we just had to have a good roll or two down the hill before we said goodbye.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil

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