One of the most significant parts of Manhattan Country School’s academic experience takes place at our Farm in the Catskill Mountains. Together with their classroom teachers, MCS students first go to the Farm in the spring of their 7-8s year. They spend three days and two nights on their first visit, with trips increasing in length and frequency as children get older. With each trip, students are able to connect what they are learning in the classroom to their studies at the Farm.

John McDaniel, MCS Farm Director

The mission of our Farm program is to help children become informed citizens, environmental stewards, educated consumers, social change-makers and community leaders. We believe that when you have people who are aware of and educated in the sources of their food, fiber, water and energy, they become powerful advocates and critics of the people and businesses that grow, produce, and supply these basic human needs."

The MCS Farm Curriculum

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  • Nature

    Nature studies at the MCS Farm immerse children in the natural world of forest, field and stream. Students explore at their own pace in an environment that quickly becomes familiar, but always holds surprises. Students hike in the woods, fields and trails; and track wildlife and learn how animals and plants respond to the cycle of seasons. Through deep exposure to the Catskill Mountain environment, children gain a perspective that helps develop their sense of environmental stewardship and informs their future choices and decisions.

  • Farm Work and Barn Chores

    Farm work class follows the rhythm of the seasons. In the spring and the fall students are engaged in planting, weeding and harvesting food. Winter involves students learning about animal husbandry, the process of making maple syrup and the energy needs and systems of the Farm.

    Farm work classes include a focus on renewable energy, taking advantage of the Farm’s 140 solar panels that produce 24,000 kilowatts of electricity. Students also work to supply firewood to heat Farm buildings and the outdoor wood-fired pizza oven. Ultimately, the content of our Farming Class is to provide an authentic Farm-Based experience which resonates with our kids and informs their future decisions.

    Barn chores are an essential piece of the MCS Farm program. All students share the responsibilities of operating and caring for the Farm. Students milk cows, gather fresh-laid eggs, clean out animal stalls and provide fresh feed for all of the Farm animals. While barn chores are taught and guided by Farm teachers in the younger years, older students soon become capable managers of Farm chores themselves.

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  • Fiber Arts

    In Fiber Arts Class, students design and create projects using the wool from our own flock of sheep. Carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving are the basic steps in our “lamb to loom” program. Needle felting, rug hooking, knitting, basketry, Kumihimo Japanese braiding, and “Backstrap Weaving,” from Central and South America are all areas explored. These meditative practices bring out not only rich artistic talents, but also inspire conversation among students on varied topics.

  • Cooking

    Cooking Class lives in the heartbeat of the Farm, the kitchen. Students prepare meals and snacks using ingredients, almost exclusively grown or raised at the MCS Farm. Basic culinary skills and nutrition, food science and systems, and an understanding of collaborative efforts between our Farm to our table are hallmarks of this program.

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Special Farm Projects by Grade

While these appear as grade-level curricular studies, all of these topics are revisited on each subsequent trip; students gain depth of knowledge over time.
  • 7-8s—Introduction to their farm. Investigate and practice Farm systems—compost, indoor/outdoor shoes, communal cooking and eating, outdoor free time activities, and safety. Introduction to the farm animals and their care.
  • 8-9s—Seed dispersal in the Fall. Indigenous peoples study coordinated with 8-9s ”city” teachers. Discuss the nomadic lifestyle of Catskills-region Indigenous tribes.
  • 9-10s—The immigration curriculum at 85th Street ties directly to the Farm study of the construction of the NYC Watershed system, which was built in large part by European immigrants. Identify and use simple machines.
  • 5th Grade—The fifth grade sustainability study ties directly to the Farm. Food, water, energy, and fiber are deeply explored and investigated during their three farm trips.
  • 6th Grade—Catskills forest study using the lens of the three Es—Environment, Economics, and Equity.
  • 7th Grade—The art and science of producing maple syrup.
  • 8th Grade—Environmental Stewardship project—examples include native plantings to prevent stormwater runoff and erosion or letters to the editor of regional newspapers expressing students’ views on building projects that have environmental, economic and social impacts on the Catskills community and beyond.

Farm Graduation Requirements

Through their years at the Farm, students add to their skills and knowledge in each area of the Farm curriculum: farming, nature, textiles, and cooking. Their studies build sequentially from year to year, culminating in graduation requirements that are fulfilled during students’ seventh and eighth grade years.

To graduate from MCS, students must:
  • Milk a cow and manage barn chores
  • Bake with yeast
  • Prepare a meal for the whole class
  • Produce an original textile
  • Participate in a mock town meeting on a current environmental issue
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