October 2017

Seventh- & Eighth-Graders Get New Perspective on the Catskills

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Monday, October 2, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Students at Giant Ledge

The Catskill Mountains are a world-class destination for outdoor pursuits. Manhattan Country School students and teachers are surrounded by and reminded of this beauty each time they visit the Farm.

The explosion of autumn colors greeted the Seventh and Eighth Grade Sur homeroom upon arriving at the Farm last week. Several students, along with teachers Annie and Garth, took the opportunity to venture off the Farm to hike to Giant Ledge. The large rock outcroppings perched on the side of Panther Mountain are located deep in what is known as the Burroughs Range. There are 35 mountain peaks in the Catskills that are over 3,500 feet high, with Panther standing at 3,702 feet. Roxbury, N.Y. native and nature essayist John Burroughs spent many days exploring this high-peaks region.

Students taking a break from hiking.

The group set off from the Farm and traveled to the trailhead in the Oliverea Valley. The hike took the group up and over boulder fields, along sandy pathways and finally to the Balsam-covered summit. Giant Ledge provides 180-degree views of Woodland Valley below and Slide Mountain, the Catskills' tallest peak at more than 4,000 feet. After taking in the views and enjoying the lunch they packed, the group returned to the trailhead having completed the four-mile hike.

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Piatigorsky Foundation Artists Share Their Love of Music With 4-5s Through 7-8s

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Wednesday, October 4, 2017 Byline:  By Susan Harris, Lower School Music Teacher

The 4-5s through 7-8s were treated to a classical music recital this past Wednesday, October 4. Two superb musicians—Linda Rosenthal, violin, and Max Pakhomov, piano—performed pieces by Brahms and other composers for our youngest students. The children were enthralled by the beautiful music and afterwards asked thoughtful questions of the performers, including “How do you get that sound from the piano?” and “Why do you play the violin with your eyes closed?”

Manhattan Country School is fortunate, again this year, to be the recipient of a Stiefel grant that makes it possible for musicians to present recitals here. The grant comes through the Piatigorsky Foundation, an organization that presents concerts in New York in a continued effort to increase awareness and appreciation of classical music.

Evan Drachman established The Piatigorsky Foundation in 1990 in honor of his grandfather, the beloved cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Piatigorsky deeply believed in the healing and inspirational power of classical music. He once said, “Music makes life better. Music is a necessity. It is rich. It is imaginative. It is magnificent. And it is for everyone.” The Piatigorsky Foundation is committed to carrying on Piatigorsky’s mission by evoking cultural curiosity through educational and accessible live performances.

Students at Manhattan Country School are fortunate to be included in the Foundation’s outreach program. Thank you, Linda Rosenthal and Max Pakhomov!

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Fifth-Graders Help With Autumn Harvest at the MCS Farm

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Thursday, October 5, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Harvesting Carrots at the MCS Farm

The Manhattan Country School Farm is deep into harvest season. The Catskills have experienced several frosts, which puts the Farm on a tight deadline with Mother Nature. The farm community needs to stay focused and industrious in getting things out of the ground.

Harvesting Root Vegetables

This week fifth grade students have been incredibly busy harvesting our root vegetables. Bushels of carrots, potatoes and beets are pulled or dug, brushed off and stored for winter. Some vegetables are snacked on during class, while some goes straight to cooking class to be prepared in that day’s meal. Our abundant tomato crop continues to yield huge numbers of paste tomatoes. The class harvested full buckets, bagged and froze them. All visiting classes will enjoy the fruits of their labor as they enjoy pasta sauce and salsa throughout the year. Apples were plucked from the Farm’s orchards and pressed into apple cider. A couple of gallons were served immediately, while several gallons were frozen to be served this winter.

Making Apple Cider at the MCS Farm

A year-round harvest that we sometimes ignore is the harvest of the sun’s energy to create electricity. The fifth grade had the responsibility of tilting the MCS Farm’s solar array to its winter setting. The 24.5 kilowatt, 140-panel array sat at near horizontal during the summer months. This is the most efficient angle to gather energy from the sun, high overhead. As we move into fall and winter, we tilt the panels to near vertical. This orientation captures energy from the sun as it arcs low over the horizon. This position also allows snow to slide off.

Adjusting the Solar Panel Array

The Farm will have plenty to be harvested in the coming weeks. The 8-9s, sixth grade and the third grade classes from Little Red Schoolhouse, which rents our farm program, can look forward to delicious meals and dirt under their fingernails when it’s their turn to run the Farm.

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Experience a Farm Trip Through the Eyes of the 8-9s

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Friday, October 13, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

8-9s Farm Trip

There is no better way to learn the routines of the Manhattan Country School Farm than through the eyes of a child. The 8-9s, on only their second trip to the Farm, had the rare opportunity to orient their teacher,  Cosi. Taking a page out of MCS progressive pedagogy, the kids taught by doing. Upon arrival, the students showed how they carry any luggage, rather than waiting for their own. They explained that if everyone pitches in, all bags will make it to the front porch. During the move-in meeting, they demonstrated how they turn in electronics that were used on the bus ride, and will be returned for the ride home. The kids reasoning was, “We don’t need electronics at the Farm; there are just so many things to do.”

Leftover food from lunch is added to the pig pail to be fed during barn chores. After receiving their room assignments, the kids showed how they safely carry their bags, one at a time up the stairs to their bedrooms. Once all roommates were present, the kids engaged in a group discussion to decide sleeping arrangements. “We need to listen to each other’s thoughts and concerns about top bunk or bottom bunk. Sometimes we switch bunks during the week, so everyone has a turn on the bunk they want.”

8-9s Farm Trip

A tour of the Farm is vital in helping teachers begin to understand things they’ve only heard or read about. The first stop on the student-led tour was the stable area of the barn. Taking the opportunity to connect with the animals, which provide food for the Farm community is invaluable. The tour guides explained, matter of factly, that the steers are named after meat dishes or cuts of meat to make clear the reason we raise them. Beef Stroganoff and Carpaccio are not cruel jokes, but a reminder that the MCS Farm believes if we’re going to serve animal protein, we want to know everything about the animals—where and how they were raised and what they put in their bodies—before we put the products they provide in our bodies. The dairy cattle are appropriately named after dairy products.  Yogurt, Chobani and Milky Way are just a few of the cows that have or will provide us with milk. One dairy cow produces enough liquid milk for drinking or for recipes, one gallon of yogurt, a little whipped cream and maybe a bit for cheese or butter.

8-9s Farm Trip

Standing surrounded by chickens in the coop can be out of some people’s comfort zone. The kids artfully showed how they quietly and gently pick up a hen and cradle her in their arms. The students explained that these hens provide all the eggs the Farm needs. “We feed  and take care of them and they take care of us.”

At the hay jump it was explained, “We jump one at a time, make sure the coast is clear before we jump and no pushing. And don’t forget, a teacher needs to be at the hay jump when we’re in here.”

8-9s Farm Trip

During barn chores, one student quickly stepped up to show Cosi how to milk a cow. They each washed their hands in an iodine solution to prevent the passage of germs from human to cow. Carefully sitting on the tippy, three-legged stool, child and adult reached under the udder and squeezed milk from the four teats. The stream of collaborative milking rang out as it hit the metal pail. That evening’s milk was combined with the mornings and pasteurized to be served later.

8-9s Farm Trip

The trip took on a steady rhythm of student-prepared meals, classes, jobs and free time. The lines of student and teacher, work and play became blurred, as we all worked and played together. Meals, as always, were a celebration of the combined work of farming class, cooking class and barn chores. Students and teachers passed platters and bowls around, filled their plates and talked about life.

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My 2017 Farm Festival Reflections

Blog Type:  From the Directors Date Posted:  Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Byline:  By Michèle Solá, Director

2017 Farm Festival showcased the vibrancy, collaborative nature and inclusiveness of Manhattan Country School in our new community. After months of preparation, 85th Street from Amsterdam to Columbus came alive with families, delicious food, bouncy houses and games, a marketplace, music and entertainment—many with a Farm theme. Images of toddlers milking the wooden cow and children sporting face paint and fairy wings are priceless; the range of musical talent on stage was impressive.

Farm Festival Raffle

View more photos from 2017 Farm Festival

The raffle drum was filled to the brim with tickets. Thank you to all the families that sold tickets. Congratulations to the 4-5s, 5-6s, 6-7s and 7-8s—the Lower School classes that each sold more than 1,500 tickets and have each won a pizza party for their efforts—and the sixth grade, which sold the most tickets in the Upper School and won a pool party to be enjoyed during their winter farm trip.

And congratulations to all the raffle winners:

  • $1,500 Cash: Denise R.
  • Nintendo Switch Gaming System: Darius R.
  • Apple Smart Watch: Edwin G.
  • Two $100 Le Pain Quotidien Gift Cards: Don W.
  • 10 AMC Movie Tickets: D. B.
  • $100 Amazon Gift Card: Molly J. and Paul S.

Bids are still coming in for the online auction, which runs until 10 p.m. Monday, October 30. We will know how many dollars Farm Festival raised in the weeks to come. The wider impact of engaging prospective families who end up applying for admissions or providing alumni and their families with evidence that MCS is still the kind of place they remember is harder to calculate, but no less important.

A prime annual fund- and friend-raising event, this year’s Farm Festival was a seamless kickoff to a whole year of work to support sliding-scale tuition, economic diversity and an academic success story. Thank you to the 6-7s families who displayed impressive organization skills and the countless volunteers who joined the effort. Thank you to families, trustees, faculty and staff who contributed creative ideas, gave tours or sat at tables answering questions about admissions or reconnecting MCS alumni.

Generations of alumni families make sure to put Farm Festival on their calendar each year. Grandparents and former staff know it’s an event where they can entertain young members of their families. The alumni cocktail reception after Farm Festival is becoming a tradition where classmates reconvene to share memories and catch up. Their reaction to touring the building: “I love the staircase. The whole place feels so MCS-y, just bigger.”

The first thing George handed me on Monday morning was a card with a message from the neighbors who asked to set up two tables to sell sundry items next to our own Marketplace at Farm Festival: 

Dear MCS,

Saturday was a lovely day in the neighborhood—made all the nicer by our joining of our ‘homes.’ Enclosed are the tickets we collected, and a check for the cash we’d like to share from our sale.

All the best,

160 West 85th Street

I have a feeling you know how meaningful it is to get that message from a neighbor on our block.

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Sixth-Graders Delve Into Science in the Kitchen and the Forest on Fall Farm Trip

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Wednesday, November 1, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Sixth-graders soil examination

Science is a cornerstone of the Manhattan Country School Farm educational program. On their autumn trip, MCS sixth-graders delved into a range of topics including soil science, food science, forest ecology and the ever important social sciences. The class had the opportunity to spend one morning observing and learning from a Cornell University soil technician. Soil health—using organic, restorative practices—is vital to the MCS Farm and the animals that rely on crops grown as a food source. The students learned that the technician gathered at least 15 samples from various places in each field, in order to have a balanced representation. Those samples were then mixed together and boxed for analysis at the Cornell lab. In total, 10 fields on both MCS’ New Kingston Mountain and Meeker Hollow farms were sampled. The MCS Farm will use the results to help balance the nutritional needs of our fields and pastures. The class used this experience to prepare our vegetable beds for layers of nutrient-rich compost we’ve created throughout the year.

Science in the Kitchen

Sixth Graders Rolls

MCS students learn to work with yeast from an early age, but sixth grade is the time when they examine the science of how yeast reacts with water and flour. Cooking Teacher Donna McDaniel walks kids through the process of gathering ingredients, setting up their workstations and making sure their water is the correct temperature. Employing the Goldilocks method—not too hot, not too cold, but just right— the students prepare their dough to the right consistency to be leavened by the yeast. They verify this method of temperature by touch and also by using a thermometer. After the appropriate time to rise is reached, into the oven go their bread or rolls. This lesson has a very real impact on the meals that will be served and eaten. The loaves of bread will be used for Thursday morning French toast or sandwiches for the bus ride home. The rolls will hold grilled burgers for dinner.

Science in the Forest

Sixth-graders marking trees for harvesting

Examining the Northeast forest through the lenses of environment, economics and equity is a yearlong research project for the sixth grade. Investigating historical natural or human-made changes to the landscape is their start. Walking through an area that has been cleared, re-forested and cleared again they see many signs. Small stands of Hemlock trees are an indication of their dominance prior to being over-harvested for the tanning industry. A lone apple tree in the middle of a dense forest illustrates that this was once open land. Our practice of harvesting select trees helps maintain the health of our forest. Students marked Northern White Ash trees with spray paint to indicate which trees will be cut this winter. The class chose which trees to harvest based on opening of the canopy, releasing other trees from competition and the ease of extraction. The harvested hardwood trees will be used to heat the textiles studio and rec room next year.

The Science of Living Interdependently

Living together as an interdependent community for a week provides countless opportunities to learn about ourselves and others. The intentional, community-based experience MCS founders Gus and Marty Trowbridge envisioned as a social experiment thrives at the school. The Farm provides a structure and system that requires all involved to be invested in each other and the greater whole. Meal preparation, time spent with roommates, free time and mealtimes place people in non-stop social balancing acts. Kids are asked—and ask of themselves—to provide for others, make appropriate choices, be kind, etc. These sometimes stressful demands can come at a frantic pace. This being said, the Farm is also a community rich with empathy, patience and tolerance. Mistakes are a welcome and vital piece of the learning process. Kids support friends through physical tasks and emotional struggles. They turn to adults for guidance, often finding they already possess the roadmap to the answer.