Ocean Song 2016

Farm School grades 4-5 - May 2016
Farm School grades 4-5 – May 2016

Anticipation. Excitement. Exploration. Acclimation. Immersion. Illumination. Bonding. Exhaustion. Adrenaline. Revelry. Reflection.

And throughout the week—open space and fresh air, 24/7. There are so, so many benefits to our kids’ Farm School experience, but being on the land breathing fresh air all day, every day is a fundamentally simple and profoundly awesome constant—so different from how we live our lives in the city. When I spend extended time outside my mind is clearer, my perspective broadens, my senses seem to sharpen, and I just feel more present, and I see this transformation in the students during their retreat at bucolic Ocean Song.

Noticeable the minute the group sets foot at Ocean Song is an immediate, collective natural sense of comfort and shared purpose, even through the excitement of arrival and intensity of negotiations during tent locating and set-up. This stems in part from the fact that Ocean Song’s spirit and ethos just inherently feels familiar and very much in line with Synergy’s culture. But only when you witness how expediently camp is established for the 4-dozen students, teachers, and parents who will spend the week together can you truly appreciate the depth of organization and calm that our teachers bring to establishing a good group dynamic and making Farm School a success.

A Welcome Meeting officially kicks things off on the garden stage, where rituals are enacted, the week’s routines and activities are outlined, and ground rules are laid by Lisa and Karen—the kind, thoughtful, and patient outdoor education stewards of Ocean Song. After a blissful few minutes of quiet listening to sounds of nature, the students are liberated for a zealous parade of instruments to awaken the garden and announce their presence, followed by the first hikes of the week. Monday night ends with The Rites of Spring, a longstanding Synergy tradition where students bedecked in ribbons and flowers perform an impromptu skit personifying the cardinal directions and seasons.

Days are structured with classes, crafts, games, and camp jobs, where kids and adults work together and share knowledge. The kids are also given a good amount of time to make independent choices for free play and down time, which is punctuated by impromptu refrains of song and jokes, group games, and exploration. This spring was a bit too cold to swim in the pond, but other customary activities persevered including Sandy’s early morning hikes and the Wednesday night hike.

On Thursday, to restore the group after a rowdy day, we circled up for another, deeper appreciation of the sounds of nature—listening closely we heard whistles, squeaks, chirps, bird wings in flight, leaves rustling, insects buzzing, and the very, very distant static of the ocean. A special visitor joined us this circle: Jill Goffstein Stocks, one of the founders of Synergy, who told a great love story about a young Pomo and Miwok Indian couple whose tribes were at war and fought a huge battle at nearby Camp Meeker. Energy ramped back up after dinner for the amusements of the Talent Show.

The week ended with Friday’s relaxed but focused effort to pack up and reflect on the shared experience at Closing Circle. For me, it also ended with a last deep breath of fresh air, and a great appreciation for the teachers, students, and families who comprise Synergy’s community.

–by Catherine Dauer; photos by Catherine Dauer and Annie Aguirre

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