Harlem Children at Glynwood - Photo Chronicle
1. Boy Meets Horse
This was experiential learning at its most powerful. We know that most of the children had never seen a horse in person, and probably none of the 75 second graders had ever had a chance to feed a horse. While a few never managed to conquer their fears, the vast majority were brave enough to give Duke a carrot, and this was a huge success for them, and the first step in learning to value and respect animals and recognize them as friends.
2. Feeding Duke
I always loved seeing the children's faces just after they fed a horse a carrot, because it was this total delight and squealing at the feeling of ticklish horse lips. Just the knowledge that the horse would not bite them, but that he was searching with his lips for the food, made them feel safe enough to then pat his head or his neck. This was the next step towards making friends with the animals.
While one group was outside meeting the animals, the other group was indoors in the Main House learning about animal products. From sheep's wool to yarn to knitting, the children experienced the feeling of the various stages of wool (and they would later touch the wool on the back of the lamb). Knitting with their fingers meant an instant success, and nothing makes me happier than seeing all of the children, boys and girls alike, knitting with their own yarn on the bus on the way back home. The success here lies not only in the appreciation for the materials that animals give us, but also in the development of motor skills and balancing of both the hemispheres of the brain, which leads to a feeling of calmness and groundedness that everyone benefits from.
4. Goats and Lamb
Entering the Barn with a Mission was always a major highlight of the farm tour, because the barn itself was so clean and smelled so good with the hay, and the great majority of the children had never seen a goat. To feel the lamb's wool, touch the goat's horns, and help them to get fresh hay to eat, was such a joyful experience. Each time we visited an animal, it gave us the opportunity to talk about all the products we get from these animals, and to realize that a grass-fed, healthy animal leads to safer and more nutritious food for humans too. We had many discussions about how "what matters is not what you eat, but what what you eat ate." They loved this saying, and it led to even greater realizations later that when they eat fast food burgers or chicken nuggets, they are not eating nutritious products from healthy animals. One 7 year old girl said to me at the end of the day, that what she had learned was that it is better to cook your own food, rather than eating fast food, because then you know exactly what you are getting. Michael Pollan couldn't have said it better.
5. Making Butter
As part of understanding and valuing the materials that we get from animals, the children made butter from scratch and thoroughly enjoyed eating this on crackers as a snack. They were completely awe-inspired to discover that cows have four-chambered stomachs, and by the end of the day, they were total advocates for grass-fed beef. Listening to their reflections after the workshops, I could not help but think that most people don't know what these second graders now know, and I was so pleased to think of them becoming adults who genuinely understand what it means to make healthy choices for themselves as well as in terms of the ethical treatment of farm animals.
6. Mama Goats
It was very special to the children to meet pregnant does, and they were quite impressed with the buck, of course. Just to have the ability to see the male, female, and offspring of a goat in one place, means a great deal. It's not theoretical, it is the life cycle being played out in front of them. I also felt that it allowed them to see that while the young goats may be harvested one day, they have led a natural, happy, and healthy life.
7. Oliver Obliges
Well, we all fell in love with Oliver the pig too. How much personality there is in a pig, we never knew before! The children's favorite thing was watching Oliver sniff everywhere for the apples we had brought him. They were also impressed to feel the coarse hair on a pig and to get a very real sense of the huge size of a boar. For some of the children whose families are Muslim, they gained a firsthand understanding of why their culture chooses not to eat pork (again, rather than it being theoretical). It wasn't that the pigs weren't clean, it had to do with their omnivorous nature. No one could resist scratching Oliver's back though, he was too much of a funny character, and he just melted any fears they might have had.
8. With the Ferrier
One group had the amazing opportunity to watch a Ferrier at work with the horses and their shoes. From the looks on the faces of the children, you can see that they were completely fascinated and trying to work it all out. Most people have never seen a horse having his hoofs trimmed and cleaned, or someone actually banging on a horseshoe, or using an anvil (other than in a cartoon, as the Ferrier aptly pointed out). The students would have stayed their for hours watching, if we'd had the time, and I think it was one of the delights of the visits for all of us, that we never knew when there would be something to see: suddenly the tractor appears with hay and we get to see the cows come in to eat; the donkey decides to come near one time and allows us to pet and feed him; a horse kicks up his heels in the pasture and lets out a whinny that grabs everyone's attention. From the actual squeal or snort of a pig to the crazy-sounding bray of the donkey or the real moo of a cow, the children and teachers were so in the moment. It was exactly what sensory learning can be.