“Let nature be your teacher”
Our ongoing relationships with Hof Narr organic farm provides a wealth of learning opportunities for the children. Through their encounters with the animals, the orchard and the vegetable garden, the children explore big concepts such as change, growth and sustainability in an environment that is rich and engaging. As we move into the second year of our ongoing relationship, it was an exciting prospect to share this wonderful space with a new group of children. We considered what significant learning opportunities would arise from these initial encounters with the space and how this learning could be extended and taken forward as the children revisit the farm over the coming school year.
As we prepared to leave for our first visits the children buzzed with questions. This was a reminder of the significant opportunities for learning that can only be explored outside of the classroom context. The children wondered about what they would see and make connections to their current knowledge and understandings about farms.
Upon our arrival at the farm, we met with Sarah, the farmer. This was a first encounter for the children and it was important for her to share with the children about ways to keep safe when interacting with animals. The key concept she explored with the children was observation. She encouraged the children to observe the behaviours of the animals and let that guide interactions safely. By offering this responsibility to the children, she was empowering them as well as developing important skills which can be applied in different places they encounter animals. Her message to the children was clear; we have rules that I can share but I also want you to be in charge of your actions. An analogy she used to help them to connect to this understanding was to invite them to think about how they would want a visitor to come to their home.
The children shared their ideas:
“They should knock on the door.” Ellen
“Or ring the bell” Max
“They should come in slowly, not running.” Charles
The children then connected these personal feelings to the animals which guided their initial interactions.
As we visited each of the animals on the farm the children spontaneously asked questions they were curious about.
“Does the rooster wake you up every day? What time does he wake up?” Alex
“Why is Lucky the horse called Lucky?” Pippa
“Can the chickens lay eggs that make baby chickens?” Charles
“What do the pigs like to eat?” Jacob
These were all questions that the children were highly motivated to explore further. At this point, the teachers supported with questions and further development of the children’s ideas. This was an opportunity to find out what excites and interests children about the animals. What are their areas of interest? How can we provide experiences and opportunities both on the farm and back at school to help the children explore their questions further?
As we formed these basic agreements and listened for the children’s interests, we also began a process of creating a shared relationship with Sarah and a connection to a new space, the farm, which has the potential to become significant in our learning journeys.
We shared a snack prepared with ingredients harvested on the farm and then had an opportunity to explore the farm’s garden. The children were excited to encounter so many different fruits and vegetables.
We visited the orchard and Sarah shared what fruits are ready to be harvested at this time of year. We had the opportunity to collect several types of apples and pears. We then visited the garden and observed broccoli, lettuces, squash, pumpkins and more. The children were impressed by the size of one large pumpkin. Sarah offered if we could lift it we might bring it back to school. The children embraced the challenge with the help of Max’s dad who supported us with transporting it back to school.
The children made a connection between the pear juice we had for our snack and the many pears we found at the bottom of the pear tree. It was suggested that we make our own juice back at school. Max’s dad offered to bring a juicer from home so we could explore the process the pears go through in order to be made into juice.
On our walk back to the tram, Charles pondered what he had observed about life on a working farm.
“You know Sarah (the farmer) won’t even need to go to the shop will she? She will buy seed and then she just grows everything they eat.”
We will continue to build a relationship with the farmer, the animals and the farm as well as explore the rich opportunities for learning at the farm throughout this year.