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Raising healthy children is a big job. Parents can take powerful strides for their early learners by signing them up for Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School located in NE Olympia. Children from ages 3.5 to 7 years spend their days outside in a classroom that extends over four acres. Every day students interact with the weather, nature, Farm animals and each other. Life on the Farm provides boundless opportunities for learning, which is geared to the whole student. This environment provides a stark contrast to being inside sitting at a desk.

small garden growing edible crops
The large garden areas at Sequoia Farm School lets children eat what they grow, all the while learning from seed to table. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

The Farm School is a dream realized by owner Sequoia Hartman, whose drive and determination have created a wondrous place for children. The educational program is based on the Reggio Emilia model of education. It maintains a heavy focus on social collaboration, encouraging children to work in groups, and developing knowledge through communication with others. “Communication, choice, mutual respect, learning through play, creativity and lots of outside time in nature build the framework for Sequoia’s Farm School experiences,” explains Sequoia.  Nature is a classroom.

You might be able to imagine what the school is all about, but it’s worth a visit to see for yourself. Children are engaged, moving and experiencing. Teacher Beverly King, whose school name is Blackberry, has been teaching there for the past three years. “Children need to experience the outdoors,” she says. At Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School, they do just that. “I feel healthier and stronger,” Bev adds, because she is outside too.

What Goes on at the Farm School?

farm stand at Sequoia's Farm School
A favorite activity at Sequoia’s Farm School is the stand where youngsters pour, measure and create mud pies and other earthy delights. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

There’s a large garden tended by the children. Children are involved from planting seeds to eating the fruits or vegetables of their labor. Gardening sharpens one’s focus on the effects of weather conditions for optimal growth, especially when you see how your crops are doing on a daily basis. It’s fun to see flowers turn into vegetables. The beans are growing over a hooped area, which will ultimately end up as a tunnel where kids can sit. Can you hear things growing? Another field grows corn and pumpkins. Maybe there will be a corn maze this fall.

Growing food lets young minds cross many educational disciplines. Let’s start with math. You can count seeds, rows in the garden, hours of sunshine in a day and days in a month. Move onto biology and science. Learn about nutrients in the ground, nutrition in a cucumber and why hydration is essential for plants as well as humans. Students can paint pictures of produce or use vegetables as dyes. How do you chop and cook food? What is taste? The garden is a tremendous source for learning. It connects people to the earth and fosters understanding for the importance of caring for the earth.

two ponies standing outside at Sequoia's Farm School
Who doesn’t want a pony? Sophie and Lady give rides for young learners at Sequoia’s Farm School. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

The same opportunities occur with the Farm animals. Children do the feeding and watering. When you visit, you can meet Sophie and Lady, the ponies. Jody and Julie are two enthusiastic pigs that gobble cabbages and miscellaneous vegetables. The hens are out and about and provide eggs. There’s a peacock, who seems content with his hens. There’s a separate field for the sweet looking alpacas and the St. Croix sheep. Accompanied children enter the enclosed areas to fill hay troughs and pellet dishes.

Along one side of the property is a seasonal creek. The area is called Wonderwood. It’s a place rich for discovering frogs, wildlife, plants, bugs and other critters. Another popular place is the Sequoia’s Farm Kid’s Stand, a place for making mud pies and for sloshing about. It’s fun to pour and measure and make dirt cupcakes. Children can find quiet time in the story cave. There are several large field areas for big group activities like interacting with the multi-colored parachute.

indoor classroom area at Sequoia's Farm School
Students do utilize areas suitable for projects that require more cover from rain or wind. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Students are divided into groups for the school year, according to age and ability. With a ratio of students to teachers at seven-to-one, each student receives attention. It is impressively different from a typical school. “It’s fun to watch them grow and learn to communicate in conflicting situations,” says Bev.

We live in a technology-driven world. How do we foster resilience, learn to make personal connections, and interact with our precious planet? Spending time outside at a place like Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School gives children those chances. Give your children a great start by investigating the opportunities.

Sequoia’s Farm School is located at 3529 Libby Rd NE in Olympia. Learning starts September 7, 2022, and for the most part follows the North Thurston Public School calendar. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with extended care available both before and after school hours. For more information visit Sequoia’s Farm School on Sequoia’s Treehouse website or call 360-878-9802.

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