This autumn, Wellan’s Voyager Middle School class is participating in an exciting experiential learning program! When most of us think of middle school, we picture pre-teens clustered around their lockers socializing, not spread out in a field digging in the dirt. Wellan’s Voyager class, however, does just that, thanks to the school’s partnership with Newton Community Farm. By spending time at the farm each week, Voyager students are reinforcing what they’re learning in STEM class about sustainable agriculture and exploring the economics of food production.
“One overarching theme of our time at the farm is sustainability, as students get to experience what it means to produce food in a sustainable way while they also learn about sustainable forms of energy production within our STEM class,” says Voyager STEM teacher Annie Radigan. “Additionally, spending time at the farm allows students to observe cycles of energy and matter in a genuine way while they learn about these cycles in the classroom.”
Students spend time at the farm planting and harvesting vegetables and herbs, sketching their observations in their journals, visiting the greenhouse, and sometimes feeding the chickens!
Another focus at the farm is understanding the economics and entrepreneurship of food production. Students partake in activities that challenge them to consider all the different aspects of bringing food to their homes, including sales and marketing. During one such activity, students harvested herbs of their choosing, like rosemary and mint, to fill tea bags with their own blends of tea. Later, they visited the farm stand to brainstorm a name for their tea and strategize how they would market it to consumers.
Above: students brainstorm their ideas about the process of sustainable food production
“It’s a very cool, layered program that breaks up the routine of the classroom and allows the students to start thinking beyond the walls of the school in a really safe environment that connects them to the earth, to food, to business and to their community,” says Kathi Martuza, Voyager Integrated Learning teacher.
Kathi also commented on how the variety that the farm program offers allows students to better engage with and understand classroom material, explaining how “If you study one thing in one way all the time, it’s going to get old. But if you come at it from all these different angles, you end up learning more.”
We are so excited that our Voyager class was able to expand their learning with such a unique and beneficial program this fall, and hope to continue this program in the future!