Fall sets us all in gear for a new round of learning, new goals and exciting new experiences. Sequoia’s Farm School guides learners through experiences that ground them in Pacific Northwest life and an understanding of its unique environment and resources. By spending time immersed in homesteading activities and field trips to natural habitats, kids observe how they are a vital part of the cycle between humans, the land and our food. It is a fantastic way to spend the school year.
Holistic Environmental Education
The school day begins at Sequoia’s 4.11-acre farm. Learning includes homesteading skills, environmental topics and the overarching connections that create the farm-to-table cycle. Assessing the weather for the day helps us make decisions, so delving into the sciences by observing the weather and the conditions surrounding us is necessary. “One of our main focuses every day at the farm school will be to determine the weather,” says Sequoia Hartman, owner of Sequoia’s Farm School and Sequoia’s Treehouse. “I feel this is an essential skill when caring for gardens, planting, caring for animals, and taking care of your home, environment and personal care.” The fact that everything in their environment is connected is an inescapable aspect, and students get to learn what it is like to participate in this complex but fulfilling relationship with the land.
Caring for crops properly requires planning and problem-solving skills, the sciences and weather observation. Being able to grasp this cycle of interconnected functions is enlightening and empowering. At this school, the children take part in the process at every stage, starting with planting seeds and watching them grow. Weeding and nurturing plants builds patience and fortitude as well as a vested interest in their success. Harvesting and learning to preserve jams and dried goods is fulfilling. Students learn to work the dirt through yearly stages of maintenance, even composting to affect the process as it begins again.
“Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School has been a great place for my son, Andre, to flourish and grow,” shares Kelly, a parent at the school. “He’s a high-energy, curious kiddo, and he thrives in the outdoors with lots of space for creativity and play. The outdoor program is built around the developmental needs of children rather than the societal expectations of adults. You won’t see the kids sitting in rows doing worksheets or hunched over tablets. Instead, you’ll come across clusters of kids covered in dirt and looking for frogs. Some might ask, are these kids learning anything? And the answer is yes, absolutely yes. Nature is the best classroom there is. This space is helping kids developing inquisitive minds and kind hearts. I just need to remember to wash the mud off him before he sits on our white couch at home!”
Students get to learn how to interact with farm animals too. They feed the pigs, the chickens, the ponies, the sheep, and Thumper the bunny. They learn to groom Sophie and Lady, the ponies. During a school term, students witness the cycle of feeding the animals quality food for optimum results, composting their droppings and bedding material and then seeing how that compost assists in growing food for either animals or people. They learn about byproducts such as eggs, how good chicken feed creates healthier eggs, and about processing milk to make butter. Learning how the world, animals and plants all interact makes for an active and constructive day.
Cross-Curricular Homesteading Activities
Wood working and creative skills may be on the day’s agenda as well. Building necessary items and solving problems require children to practice goal setting, planning for steps and gathering appropriate materials. Projects to build useful farm tools or systems involve innovation, motor skills and even the arts. When building or creating something, kids get to experience whole processes from planning to implementation whether it is working in the garden, cooking a Dutch oven meal together, or tending to the animals. Thinking through plans, perhaps reading support material, and using teamwork are essential to project management even on the kid level. More than just a project or task is completed. Confidence is built too.
A lot of activity is spent tending to the Farm and morning activities, but after lunch, a quiet reflective time allows everyone to relax and just “be.” Whether it is through reading a book, spending time journaling or listening to music, children have time to process and reenergize before commencing with the rest of their day.
At Sequoia’s Farm the focus is on kids’ experiences in the outdoors, that they are authentic, that they provide an opportunity for children to participate fully and explore new knowledge. For kids, learning how the world around them works, helps to build awareness, and being able to take part in it hands-on empowers them.
Sequoia’s Farm School is located at 2525 36th Avenue NE in Olympia. Learning starts September 8, 2021 and runs through the third week of June for children 4 to 7 years old and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Extended care is available both before and after school hours. For more information visit Sequoia’s Farm School on Sequoia’s Treehouse website.