Taking care of and raising bunnies, using fiber from animals to spin yarn that is used to craft original projects, and learning how farms function and their benefits to society were just some of the ideas a colleague at my school and I discussed this past summer as we created a Farm Program for the sixth grade. Our goal was and still is to make learning real and hands-on for the students. Instead of explaining the lifecycle of organisms through diagrams and lectures, why not have them experience it first hand with angora rabbits. Rather than simply teaching students to knit, we could have the boys collect fiber from animals, clean it, spin it on a wheel, and transform it into yarn they use when learning how to knit or crochet. Wouldn’t that be more relevant and engaging for the students? The Farm Program we created for the sixth grade is about getting the students excited to learn and DO. A classroom setting is fine for teaching basic skills, but if we want our students to see the relevance in the vital life skills we are trying to teach them, we need to journey outside of the white walls of our large classroom. We need to get dirty and experience life through a different lense. Our Farm Program helps students to broaden their perspectives on many different facets of life.
Today’s visit to the farm included harvesting brussel sprouts, an introduction to crocheting, and a chance to observe the bunnies. The boys had a blast and learned much. They took copious notes in their Farm Journals as they observed, weighed, and measured their bunnies. They asked insightful questions and worked hard throughout our two hours on the farm today. While this is what I saw and noticed, what was really happening from the perspective of our students? What are they learning during our visits to the farm? Are they getting anything from these experiences or is it a waste of our precious STEM class time? So, to find out what was really happening behind the green curtain, I had the students reflect a bit today following our visit to the farm.
I asked them three questions:
- Why is the Farm Program so important for the sixth grade?
- What important skills are you learning?
- Why should we continue the Farm Program on Fridays?
Here are some of the written responses we received:
- “It helps us understand the importance of farms in our community. It shows us that in order to live, we need farms.”
- “It teaches us how to take care of animals and how to take care of plants.”
- “It can help us learn more skills that we might need after we grow up, like fixing clothes.”
- “Because we are tired because of the 5-full study days, but when we go to the farm, it is relaxing and healing.”
- “The Farm Program helps us learn how to work together.”
- “It helps us learn to be healthy.”
- “We can learn more and interesting knowledge.”
- “We can learn and have some fun at the same time.”
- “The Farm Program is important to the sixth grade by giving us many life skills.”
- “A skill we are learning is communication, what we use to talk to each other in an inclusive language.”
- “Writing in the Farm Journal helps us to improve our writing.”
- “We are learning to care for something with the bunnies.”
- “I would say I am improving my listening skills by listening to Mrs. Ledoux.”
- “We have to use math to change ounces to grams.”
- “We should continue this program to help broaden our perspectives on why we need farms.”
- “We should continue this program because it helps us to come more together as a community.”
- “We should continue the Farm Program because we need to learn how to take care of our seventh grade animals.”
- “We look and learn some things that are made with science and we can use critical thinking.”
- “We should continue this program because it can help us to learn more and let us know more about life.”
- “We should continue because it helps us bond as a class and helps us learn to help the other fella.”
- “We should continue the program because it makes us relax and have fun.”
- “We should continue because we are having fun while we learn.”
Clearly, the students see the value in our Farm Program and are thoroughly enjoying it. They are learning so much more than we had even intended. It’s so exciting! I do love when things just come together and work out just like you had imagined they would. If only every aspect of life worked that way. Wouldn’t that be grand?