If you’ve known us for even a short time, you know that information disemination is a strong value here. This winter we met Ilene Satchell of Willow Tree Way at the Small Farms Conference. She has a program for training farmers to be para-educators and to bring agriculture into the classroom. If you’ve tried your hand at raising tomatoes or pastured poultry or roses, you know there’s a bit of biology or botany and basic math involved. As you read this you realize that language arts can be involved. There can be a lot of social studies involved if one looks at what a farm can produce and how that plays out in the local, state, national, and even international food systems. Custom chicken processing is a great business math project. Politics can also be studied from the middle of a hay field as one discusses big farms and lobbies vs. small scale farm enterprises and current legislation at the state and national levels.
The short of it is that we’ve spent three Saturdays now under Ilene’s tutelage, learning about GLCE’s and HSCE’s (grade school and highschool Curriculum Expectations), lesson planning, and how to mesh what happens on the farm to what the students need to learn. The students will visit the farm for a lesson, but the farmer works with the teacher for follow-up in the classroom both in person and through technology (conference calls, web cam, e-mail, etc.)
We’ll keep you posted as we finish our training. If you know principals and/or teachers in northern and central Michigan who may be interested in this opportunity, please let them know and pass their names to us. This is an exciting learning lab opportunity for our local students and teachers, especially as the pressure mounts for no student to be left behind.