Curriculum

Students immerse themselves in the Farm’s activities each time they visit the Farm.  They milk cows, gather fresh-laid eggs, cook meals with vegetables they have grown in the garden and grass-fed meat they have raised organically.  They bake bread, boil maple sap into syrup, press apples to make cider and spin woolen yarn they weave into cloth.  Zero-mile meals and a closed-loop food cycle are daily experiences.  The sustainability skills students learn inform their decisions long afterward.

VIDEOMCS on the Farm

PHOTOSStudents learning at MCS Farm

The natural world is their classroom.  Students hike in the woods, fields, and trail, track wildlife, and learn how animals and plants respond to the cycle of seasons.  Applying the “3 E’s” of environment, equity and economics, they study how energy production, water quality and real estate development impact the natural environment and rural farms and villages.   MCS Farm’s commitment to sustainability, equity and diversity is embedded in its curriculum and its agricultural and energy practices.  Farmwork classes focus on renewable energy, taking advantage of the Farm’s 14 solar panels that produce 24,000 watts of electricity.  Students also learn the work required to supply firewood to heat Farm buildings and to operate the outdoor wood-fired oven.

Through their years at the Farm, students add to their skills and knowledge in each area of the Farm curriculum which builds sequentially from year to year, culminating in the graduation requirements that occupy Fifth Floor students for two years.  If you visited the Farm during a Lower School Farm trip you would see children cooking meals with ingredients set out for them by Donna McDaniel, the Cooking Teacher.  If your visit took place during a Fifth Floor Farm trip, you would see pairs of students working independently in the kitchen to create a meal of their choosing.  In nature study, younger students rely on John McDaniel, the Nature Teacher, to acquaint them with natural phenomena; as older students they confront important regional issues and develop their own critical thinking in a final debate in the spring.  In Cathy Cammer’s farmwork classes, Lower School students tackle tasks in the barn and in the garden; as Upper School students they take a more comprehensive look at milk and meat production at the Farm in agriculture classes with Ed Fersch.  Similarly, in textiles class taught by Lynn Haroldson, students learn essential skills in processing wool, then move from structure to independence, from group work to individual initiatives, innovation and choice. 

At MCS Farm the past and present of the Catskill Mountains come alive.  Students square dance, learn rural folkways and play traditional instruments with local musicians.  They explore the similarities and differences in rural and urban life, exchanging visits with peers from Roxbury Central School.  They visit area reservoirs that feed New York City’s water supply, and observe new ways Catskills farmers are providing finished products, such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream, vegetables and grass fuel pellets, for local and urban markets.  Students investigate local issues with broad implications – most recently, drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.

From their experiences at MCS Farm students become capable managers of farm chores, analysts of environmental issues and observers of animal and plant life.  As students advance through elementary and middle school their work at the Farm becomes more challenging, drawing on and enriching their classroom curriculum.

MCS students are prepared to take an active role in achieving environmental justice and conservation of energy and of our environment.  Their understanding of the interdependence among people, land and animals, and of the richness of the natural world surrounding the Farm, is a foundation for life.

Farm Graduation Requirements

To graduate, students must complete five farm requirements: 

1. Milk a cow and manage barn chores
2. Bake with yeast
3. Prepare a meal for the whole class 
4. Produce an original textile
5. Participate in a mock town meeting on a current environmental issue

VIDEOMCS on the Farm

PHOTOSStudents learning at MCS Farm

 

 
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