6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

MCS Farm: "The Great Leveler"

MCS Farm: "The Great Leveler"

Friday, October 5, 2018

Norte and Sur Fall Farm Trips

In several conversations over the years with our founders Gus and Marty Trowbridge, they described the intent of the MCS Farm as a “social experiment”: a place where children from diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds work, play and learn together. The Farm, as Gus put it, is “the great leveler.” On the first seventh and eighth grade Farm trips of the year, seventh graders also experience the Farm for the first time in a mixed-grade setting.  Up until this point, they have only traveled to the Farm with their grade, but at the start of the year, the class was split into two homerooms, Norte and Sur, mixed with 8th graders.

The Farm invariably provides the common space for students who have become very comfortable in its environs, routines and systems. Dishwashing, hauling firewood and cleaning bathrooms are all examples of tasks assigned on the job chart regardless of student grade.  At the start of a trip, it is not unusual to observe kids sticking near classmates from their own grade. However, when jobs and classes begin, the seventh and eighth graders organically mix due to the task or student’s desire to participate in specific activities. While family-style meals could be a place where kids segregate themselves by grade, particularly during this first trip of the year, students are routinely requested to sit with different people at each meal. This is a practice that our students have been familiar with since they first started coming to the Farm and provides an opportunity to talk to and bond with kids whom they previously may only know by face.

As the week progresses, the social barriers melt away and it would be impossible for an outsider to know which children are in the seventh or eighth grade. Playing cards on the front porch, a game on the ball field or taking a day-long hike are all subtle exercises in group dynamics and chemistry. The nighttime schedule of games, like Manhunt, Ghosts in the Graveyard and Sardines, evening snack and similar bedtime rituals all provide comfort for our kids at their home away from home.

All of the above, invariably, occurred during the recent seventh and eighth grade fall Farm trips. The Norte class visited during the last week of September and the Sur class followed during the first week of October. Students from both grades enjoyed getting to know one another better in their mixed groups as they created their beautiful textile projects, worked in the garden, did morning barn chores, shared delicious student-prepared meals of lasagna and garlic bread and pork chops and homemade applesauce, and snacked on apples plucked straight from he trees and cinnamon rolls, the delicious result of the students' yeast requirement!