4/5 Farm School


Farm School, Synergy School’s main outdoor ed program, is one of my favorite parts of the year. Kids learn so much when they are out of their comfort zone: away from their families and the urban environment. For some kids, even encountering bugs is a big deal. For others, sleeping in a tent for the first time is a monumental paradigm shift. A few kids struggle with homesickness and the elements, but the majority revel in the outdoor time with friends, relishing their independence and learning new skills and perspectives.

This year the weather was great and the 4/5 mix a harmonious bunch. Parents come and go and the teachers prepare a varied and rich syllabus including botany, poetry, yoga, mindfulness meditation, baking, sketching, hiking, knitting, kite-making, leather crafts, and sound mapping.

The pond was cold but in the heat of the day swimming was a welcome activity .Meal preparation, cleanup, and snack time figured heavily in the daily routine. Before I drove to Farm School midweek, I got a text from Sandy asking me to bring five loaves of bread, bagels, and turkey for sandwiches; apparently white bread was in high demand.

I was lucky to have been able to share a meditation practice and teach two yoga classes in the lovely green barn. I had taught many of the kids yoga in preschool, so it was a fun reunion! I was impressed not only with their focus but with the way they described their mindfulness experience. These are some insightful kids.

The night hike is always a big deal and this year we enjoyed a burst of warm air and what some thought were coyote howls. Many students opted to walk alone in the dark, a Synergy rite of passage. It’s an opportunity for tremendous growth for those uncomfortable with darkness, independence, and the wilds of nature.

I spent time making sure sunscreen was at the ready and kids were hydrated and appropriately dressed. I even got to use my coiffure skills (which don’t get much exercise in my predominantly male household) by giving kids French braids.

Other highlights included a wonderful sound mapping session that involved a short hike, silence for an extended period, and mapping sounds on paper. Non-stop athletics are de rigueur for some, although my 5th grader remarked that he was able to see and do  much more this year because he was not engaged in sports the whole time. Many students took to knitting and finger knitting, and the talent show skits required rehearsal time. The kids also enjoyed preparing Focaccia bread and mint tea, and sketching the beautiful flowers and birds.

Most of all, Farm School is an incredible opportunity for kids, teachers, and families to forge even deeper connections with the environment and each other, while learning—in nature’s classroom—at Ocean Song.

 — by Darya Mead; photos by Darya Mead and Brendan McDermott (see more Farm School photos on SmugMug)

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