Sunday, May 15, 2011

Class F Potatoes, End of FS4, Plant Sale, CH Visit, Hand in Hand Visit

Class F Potato Planting Day last Tuesday

Class F comes out every spring to plant potatoes. This year it almost didn’t happen. Sure, we got them on the schedule ages ago. But the weather doesn’t care about schedules. The previous week we chose the beds for potatoes and the soil was prepared. It had finally dried out enough to work the ground without creating ruts in the field and molding the silt and clay soil into rocks. Then Monday morning we awoke to a thunderstorm, complete with the first hail of the year. The weather for the week actually forecast possible rain every day. We needed to make nine 250-foot trenches for the Class F students to plant the potatoes. In order to open up the trenches, we needed to drive the tractor up and down the beds with a big set of steel discs. The ground was just too wet. It was actually a muddy mess. My heart sank as I imagined all those children who really wanted to plant potatoes. We contacted Erin and told her to be ready for anything, but to plan on coming out anyway and we would dig one trench by hand if we needed to.

Then the sun came out on Monday during the day and the wind picked up. By Monday at 5 pm we decided that it was worth a try. If we didn’t get the potatoes planted on Tuesday, there wouldn’t be another good place in the schedule for over two weeks. We brought the tractor over and tried it out. The wheels compressed the soil and as soon as we put the discs down into the muddy ground, they either stopped the tractor or caused it to veer off track. So we made some very shallow trenches, each with some deep ruts on either side where the tractor got stuck or slid sideways. After four trenches we gave up. But at least four was better than nothing.

Tuesday morning came and Class F arrived right on schedule. The sun had come out and instead of showers it got very very hot. It was like a little potato miracle. The soil was significantly drier than just 18 hours ago! After the students got started on the first two shallow trenches, we made all the rest of the trenches with the tractor. Nice and deep too! The ground was still slightly muddy, just enough to make the soil feel cool and pliable under the students’ bare feet. The students worked all morning, and then finished the job after lunch. The potatoes are now snug in their new home. Thanks Class F!

Farm Stay 4 Finishes Up

Last week Farm Stay 4 ended on Wednesday. The last few days of a Farm Stay are always poignant. The eighth graders realize that this is it, the end of their official connection to the Land School. Everyone wants to make the most of the final moments. Inside jokes are codified and official Farm Stay songs are selected. Even as the Farm Stay is still happening, there is nostalgia for it. They are also subconsciously preparing to detach from the group and re-enter their family dynamics and their urban campus social groups. Within this emotional landscape the students are also asked to finish their projects, continue to do their chores, and maintain their attention for the present moment. As teachers, we are also caught looking forward to the next challenge and backward in nostalgia while we guide them through the final days. We try to offer our last pearls of wisdom and elicit from them the contemplation and self-reflection appropriate to the moment. This includes a closing ceremony on the last day.

On Thursday we had a sort of transition day for Farm Stay 4 at the urban campus. Donna and I went in and helped the students prepare presentations for the E2 and the Junior High. As a group we made a veggie soup for lunch in the Junior High. After that the students went over to the E2 level and Donna’s Occupation group gave Class F an overview of what the Farm Stay is, and my group worked with other students in the commons seeding flats of pumpkins, winter squash and other veggies and flowers. After the work on the E2 level, there was an entertaining presentation to the whole Junior High, which included a total tick tally for the Farm Stay, among other things.

Thanks to the students and parents of Farm Stay 4! A special thanks to all the urban campus staff who helped make this Farm Stay a success by coming out to the Land School to help: Doug Alecci, Dave Zdenek, Erin Allen, and Sarah Richardson.

Plant Sale

Last week was week-zero for the countdown to the plant sale. Plants that were started in February and March were finally getting their day to shine.  As we unloaded the truck in the Lake Country parking lot, I felt pride and gratitude. Preparing for the Plant Sale has involved every group of students that has been to the Land School since the middle of March. In addition, the E2 students have helped out in their commons on two separate occasions. Not only did we empty both rural campus greenhouses, but the Land School plants also joined up with a host of plants sourced from other greenhouses to make a truly spectacular display. Then a small army of volunteer students, staff and parents assembled all the orders and processed the numerous lists as people picked up. All with smiles and good cheer. A huge thank-you to everyone involved in the Plant Sale, especially the organizers!

Children’s House Visit

On Thursday afternoon Donna and I visited each Children’s House Classroom and presented a lesson on the parts of a plant. As part of each lesson, we visited the plants in the Plant Sale and identified plant parts on real plants. Ah, the joy of discovery! This was our fifth visit this year and by now all the afternoon students are familiar with us and know about the Land School. This is wonderful because next year when all the E1 classes come up in the fall, all the first years will already know us and this makes the first visit go much better.

Hand in Hand Montessori has their Planting Day
Last fall we welcomed Hand in Hand Montessori for their first ever Land School experience. We developed a mutual admiration and a desire for the relationship to continue. As a preparation for next fall, we invited them to come out and plant so they could be involved in the beginning of what they are going to harvest in the fall. On Friday a group of ten students helped plant potatoes, do animal chores, plant hostas near the Homestead, and plant in the greenhouse. Thanks Hand in Hand!

Coming this week:
This week on Tuesday we welcome 100 students from Great River High School for their Spring visit. They will plant in the garden and do various stewardship projects. Welcome GRS! Then on Wednesday we become a three-day Environmental Education camp for Class D. We can’t wait for the activities and campfires and fun!

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