Another constant within the Taos Waldorf School curriculum is the development of a deep connection to the natural world. Our campus includes a greenhouse, large garden, apple orchard, goats, bee hives, chickens, ducks and geese, providing students at all levels with the opportunity to experience nature and explore the world we inhabit hands-on. These practical activities help to develop and solidify the child’s scientific knowledge, while also addressing issues of conservation, seasonality, history and mathematics. In addition, children learn responsibility, promoting strong character and integrity.
Led by our gardening and farming teacher, students learn about food sources, compassion for living things and sustainability issues. It also allows students to apply math and science in a hands-on way – resulting in an extraordinary and meaningful learning opportunity. Research has shown that children who are exposed to working with farm animals at an early age are better listeners, perform well in school, and exhibit integrity and compassion above their age level.
This year was typical in the learning opportunities offered by the agriculture program, in the form of weekly hands-on lessons for each class. In the fall, the first and second grades learned how to properly use garden tools and harvested onions. The third grade cleaned garlic and planted garlic for next year, and cared for the baby chicks. Fifth graders milked goats, watched honey being harvested from our bee hive, and began learning about soil composition. The sixth grade harvested and sold farm shares, helped erect the greenhouse, took soil samples, and had significant responsibility in caring for our goats and chickens.
In the spring, all grades spent time studying seeds and discovering the process of germination. The older students learned to create planting charts and planted vegetable and flower seeds for a May fundraiser. The students also studied which plants grow well in our unusual climate, and began focusing on agriculture vocabulary. Third graders learn about compost and worms, and creating a foundation for a healthy garden. They aid in preparing the greenhouse beds for planting, using the compost they created.
Our younger students – in first and second grades, as well as our older kindergarteners – are often busy pulling weeds and walking goats. This spring we welcomed ducklings and goslings to our program, as well as several goat kids born this year. All grades will be planting a raised bed with seeds chosen during the seed study.