It’s often difficult to describe a typical Manhattan Country School Farm trip. There are only so many superlatives one can use to explain the authentic work and learning students experience. The recent sixth-grade spring trip was jam-packed with special activities, visitors and new experiences. Let’s not forget, the kids also had a farm to operate.
Upon arrival the kids were charged with naming our milk cow Daisy’s new calf. Several suggestions were offered. In the end the week-old heifer was named Dairy Queen. On Tuesday morning the students hosted a sixth-grade class from South Kortright Central School (SK). The SK students were in the middle of a farm-to-table curriculum and their teachers felt a trip to the MCS Farm would tie in nicely. The two classes were split into six groups for a tour of the Farm and to participate in gardening, cooking, textiles and nature studies classes. With all the kids working diligently in collective groups, they planted numerous broccoli plants in the upper garden; pumpkins, sunflowers and popcorn in a bed near the solar array; and several trees along the stream to control erosion. While this was going on, students in the cooking class prepared a taco lunch for 50 people. The taco bar featured several choices, including ground beef, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and milk to drink, all from the MCS Farm.
On Tuesday afternoon after the SK kids left, we hosted a soil scientist from The Watershed Agricultural Council. Taking the entire class from meadow to forest he explained and exhibited different soil structures. The students dug several holes to examine the mixtures of sand, silt and clay that comprise soil. They conducted a rate-of-flow experiment to determine if water runoff was faster or slower due to the amount of organic matter in a specific area.
Tuesday evening was spent at a pool party at the nearby Catskill Recreation Center. The class won this party by selling the most Farm Festival raffle tickets among Upper School classes last fall. The party was supposed to occur during the winter trip, but a huge blizzard forced the class to leave the Farm early.
On Wednesday, John Micheloti of Catskill Fungi spent the day at the Farm. He explored the forest with half the class in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. The kids found dozens of varieties of fungus on their walks. Some fungi were quite common, while others were rare or even unknown to John. He and the kids started work on a MCS Farm fungus/mushroom guide to help educate students in the future.
While one group was on the mushroom walk, a group of five students washed all 250 sap buckets on the greenhouse deck. The buckets had been taken down by the 9-10s at the end of maple syrup season and needed a good scrubbing before being put away.
Wednesday evening was time for the annual sixth-grade “Fancy Dinner.” This long-standing tradition had kids rearranging the dining room like a café, complete with flowers and candles. Students arrived in clothes dressier than usual farm-trip attire and enjoyed grilled steak, baked potatoes, a tossed salad and sparkling grape juice.
On Thursday morning we received a call from our local post office informing us that they had two “peeping” boxes for us. We knew our baby chicks had arrived! The MCS Farm has ordered chicks from Hoffman Hatchery in Pennsylvania for years. When ready, the chicks are shipped overnight and arrive healthy. Many kids pitched in to give the different variety of chicks their first sips of water at the Farm. They then gently placed them in the “brooder box” under warm heat lamps. Twenty-five of the chicks will be raised as egg layers and 50 will be raised on the pasture for meat.
Soon after the bus pulled away on Friday, a few Farm staff members stood together on the farmhouse sidewalk. It was one of those speechless moments when we shook our heads in disbelief about all that had taken place over the past three-and-a-half days.