New this fall, Cardigan’s Farm Program provides nature-connected education to sixth graders to foster important 21st-century concepts of environmental stewardship and sustainability. This program has expanded the classroom to the outdoors, and is teaching students the value of all living things as they plant and harvest crops, care for animals, and tackle various homesteading activities from harvesting llama fiber to churning butter. These hands-on experiences give the boys a deeper knowledge that can’t be achieved in a traditional classroom.
Events Coordinator Mary Ledoux is directing the program at her home on Fernwood Farm just minutes from campus. This sprawling property, anchored by a New England farmhouse and barn and bordered by a stone wall and fenced pastures, is a very special place. It has been home to many different animals over the past 22 years, including creatures as exotic as camels. The current residents include an ever-changing number of dogs, cows, horses, sheep, chickens, rabbits and llamas. In addition to the animals, vegetable gardens, grape vines, fruit trees, berries, edible plants, and farm equipment decorate the farm. The property is constantly changing depending on the season or with the birth of new animals. Perhaps this is why it is such an ideal learning environment.
The students are learning how to care for livestock, and about their purpose in our world. They are learning about “farm-to-table” initiatives by planting their own vegetables, watching them grow, and then serving them in the Kenly Dining Hall for the Cardigan community to share.
Mrs. Ledoux often calls upon community volunteers to share their knowledge and to further build our local community relationships. This fall the boys tried their hand at cider pressing, making grape jelly, harvesting brussels sprouts and potatoes, and of course the very popular bunny program, in which students adopt a baby bunny for the year, take weekly measurements, trim their fur, feed them, and learn about harvesting their fiber.
Though the Farm Program is a new development at Cardigan, it is not the first occasion in which Mary shared her knowledge with students. In the 2016-2017 academic year, sixth graders enjoyed “Fun Farm Fridays” in which they cared for bunnies, tapped maple trees for sap, made holiday wreaths from spruce trimmings, and had an informational tour of Cardigan’s solar field.
Students are excited to venture outside of traditional classrooms for a portion of the day in order to learn about their natural surroundings, and share all of the wealth that this region has to offer.