MCS Farm

Farm Curriculum

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.

The Farm provides invaluable opportunities to witness and study natural phenomena. While collecting sap to make maple syrup, students learn why the trees produce sap and why it can only be harvested in early spring. One morning job is to predict the weather based on observation, temperature and barometric pressure. A nature class on a walk might encounter the skeleton of a deer, prompting discussion of how the deer was killed, what caused it to decompose and what might happen to its remains. Students see cycles of life as they plant and harvest vegetables or witness the birth of a baby calf and watch it grow up. They develop an understanding of where food comes from and of the interdependence of humans and nature.

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

List of 4 items.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Special Farm Projects by Grade

While these appear in grade-level curricular studies, all of these topics are revisited on each subsequent trip, gaining depth of knowledge.
  • 7-8s—Intro to their farm; Investigate and practice Farm systems; compost, indoor/outdoor shoes, communal cooking and eating, outdoor free time activities, and the safe way to do them. Introduction the farm animals and their care.
  • 8-9s—Seed dispersal in the Fall.
    Indigenous peoples study coordinated with 8-9’s : ”city” teachers. Discuss the nomadic lifestyle of Catskill region indigenous tribes. Build wigwams at the Farm after students build wigwam models on 85th St.
  • 9-10s—The immigration curriculum at 85th St. ties directly to the class study at the Farm of the construction of the NYC Watershed system, which was built in large part by European immigrants. 
    Identifying and using simple machines.
  • 5th Grade—A direct curricular tie-in with the 5th-grade sustainability study. 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 E’s; Environment, Economics, Equity.
  • 7th Grade—The art and science of producing maple syrup.
  • 8th Grade—Environmental Stewardship project; This has included native plantings to prevent stormwater runoff and erosion, letters to the editor of regional newspapers expressing students views on building projects, which 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. Their study builds 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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