The First MCS Farm Trip of the Year

The First MCS Farm Trip of the Year

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Manhattan Country School 5th grade visited both Hanford Mills Museum and the New York Power Authority Visitors Center, tying to their study of energy later in the school year. Hanford Mills is a “living history” museum that provides a glimpse into the life of people living and working in the Catskill Mountain region in the mid-1800’s. An operating mill site since 1846, for most of its commercial life Hanford Mills was owned and operated by the family of David Josiah Hanford, who purchased the mill in 1860. Under the Hanfords, the mill grew into a rural industrial complex that included a sawmill, gristmill, feed mill, woodworking shop and hardware store. In 1898, Hanford Mills harnessed the waters of Kortright Creek to provide the town with its first electricity. Through time, the Hanfords also used steam and gasoline engines to power the mill and its electric dynamo. The 5th graders explored the numerous work stations of the mill complex and operated some of the machines. They ground corn into meal, turned a barrel top on the lathe, and by pulling levers, changed the various belts' directions which are run by the large wooden waterwheel. They also examined the ice house, which will be full of ice blocks carved from the frozen mill pond this winter.

Moving from the 19th century of Hanford Mills to the 21st century at the “Pump Storage Project” at Blenheim provided a clear contrast. The Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project uses hydroelectric technology and two large reservoirs at different altitudes to generate up to 1,160,000 kilowatts of electricity. The plant uses power to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. Then it generates power as the water descends through the project’s turbine-generators to create electricity, making it like a giant rechargeable battery. The facility provides power to the grid at moments of peak demand and then recharges, restoring itself to readiness when demand and power prices are low. The visitor’s center is filled with hands-on stations where our kids peddled a stationary bike that powers several electric appliances, flipped switches from A/C to D/C power, and had their hair raised by creating static electricity. 

At the MCS Farm, our students are aware of our practice of using clean renewable solar energy to power the Farm and sustainably harvested wood to heat the outbuildings. The stream flowing through the Farm also has a human-built waterfall that once turned a waterwheel and powered a sawmill. As the kids research and discuss the topic of energy later in the year, they’ll be able to make connections from these experiences.