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Change of Season at the MCS Farm

By John McDaniel, Farm Director
The first Manhattan Country School Farm trip in 5th grade comes at a time of seasonal convergence. Summer is trying to hang on, while fall is knocking at our door. Days and nights are a bit cooler, autumn colors are painting our hillsides, and our gardens are slowly being put to rest. Like the weather, we find cross-curricular opportunities in many places. In Cooking and Baking Class, it is the first time the kids work directly with yeast. Discovering the culinary science of activating the yeast with the perfect water temperature and just a bit of sugar for it to feed on. Add the activated yeast to flour with a little salt, knead it, allow it to proof (rise), shape and bake. This basic lesson provides a platform for future baking of pizza, rolls, and pretzels. It also ties directly into the 5th grade study of Egyptian cultures. Egypt is thought to be the birthplace of the use of yeast as an “industrial microorganism.” Weaving this area of MCS curriculum into a tangible, hands-on project, which then nourishes our community, is extraordinary! 

At this time of year, due to the changing angle of the sun, we also tilt our solar array to its winter orientation. Children and adults work together to lower the panels to a more vertical angle. This allows for greater efficiency in harvesting the sun's energy, while it passes lower over our horizon and prevents snow buildup. The class discusses this manual task, learning why the sun is at different angles to the earth and daylight times change.

In Textiles Class, the students weave using “backstrap” looms. This traditional form of fiber art is practiced in Guatemala, Peru, China, Bolivia, Japan, and Mexico. The backstrap loom is a very specific tool that translates through so many cultural practices. Design, material, and methods of dyeing are all explored while creating a beautiful piece of cloth. 

In Nature Class, the long cherished activity, which kids have named “Lost,” takes place. A group of four kids hike deep into the Farm’s forest with Lacey and then have to find their way back without help from an adult. This requires some common sense, some negotiations, and a level of bravery. The group is never far from the adult, who, while not with them, always knows exactly where they are. The cheers of joy when the kids come around the last turn in the woods and the farmhouse comes into view is so exciting. 

More Photos Here. 
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