Farm Friday: Cooperative Learning

One of the first things we tell campers when they come to the farm is that this is a teaching farm, and all of us are teachers.

“It’s important that we all share our knowledge and experience, our ideas, theories, personal philosophy, and imagination,” I tell them.  “This is how we learn.”

It works very well.  This style of Cooperative Learning tends to engage the kids in active conversations about all that we do on the farm and why.  When I ask why we plant squash, beans, and corn together in the same bed, hands go up and someone will explain the Iroquois tradition of The Three Sisters, and how the corn provides support for the beans, the beans add nitrogen to the soil which the corn relies on, and the squash, with its broad leaves, shades the soil to keep moisture in and suppress weeds.  This explanation is better coming from one of the kids because kids listen more closely to kids than they do to adults, perhaps because of their shared vocabulary.

This week, we harvested the last of our rainbow carrots–white, yellow, pink, orange, and purple carrots that were a big hit with the campers.  When asked by one camper why most of the carrots we see in this country are orange, another camper explained that in the seventeenth century, the ruling family of the Netherlands decreed that only orange carrots should be bred and grown to honor their patriarch, William of Orange.  (I did not know this.)  The kids went on to have a lengthy discussion of carrots, culminating with the little-known fact that the ‘baby carrots’ sold in our supermarkets are not really baby carrots; rather they are carrots that have been rejected because they were split or misshapen. then thrown into a machine that whittles them down to a uniform size and shape.  (Did you know that?)

As any good teacher will tell you, there is much to be learned from our students.  I experience that every day.

Until next week, Stay Dirty.

Alan

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