Activities For Students
Farm-Based Education
For Educators

Summer Learning on the Farm (with Activities!)

This summer, we’ve been collaborating with the Winooski School District to create a summer school program that includes time both on our working farm campus and in the classroom. Students from the elementary and high schools are learning about natural systems and the big ideas of sustainability and seeing them in action. (Even WCAX joined in on the fun!)

Nancy Johnson, JFK Elementary School teacher, said kindergarten and first grade students (and their teachers) were getting hands-on experience while investigating the larger themes of life cycles, fairness and equity, community, and their ability to make a difference. “There is nothing better than spending the day walking through the market garden and discovering so many little creatures in the forest. Students and teachers also explored areas right on our own school campus that have similar animals and plants that we found at Shelburne Farms,” said Nancy.

Winooksi students on a Fabulous Five Scavenger Hunt in the Market Garden and reaping the final reward — carrots fresh from the soil! (activity below)
Winooksi students on a Fabulous Five Scavenger Hunt in the Market Garden and reaping the final reward — carrots fresh from the soil! (activity below)

Alongside our educators, kids are exploring the outdoors (an especially welcome experience after the pandemic induced isolation of previous months), and classroom teachers are discovering how place-based learning can be incorporated in the curriculum once the semester begins later this month. “It was really exciting to co-teach and collaborate with the teachers,” shares educator Jed Norris. “Shelburne Farms and Winooski staff had time together before summer school began to plan ahead and learn from one another, and that made for a really strong program. It gave them the chance to explore teaching methods in a whole different setting, outside the four walls of a classroom. Some of the teachers are already implementing some of the activities at their schools.

Winooski students visiting the chickens and sheep in the farmyard.
Winooski students visiting the chickens and sheep in the farmyard.

Curious what the students have been up to? Educators Jed Norris and Simon Schrier shared some of the activities, which you can download and use in your classroom with students, or enjoy at home in your own neighborhood with family and friends!

  • Colorsearch - “I've used this activity as a way to explore the Market Garden. Students get paint swatches in various colors, and then seek out those colors as they get to know the garden. It adapts to home really easily, you don't even need paint chips; you can use any colorful items to inspire your search.” -Simon
  • Plant Parts We Eat - “This activity is a great way to talk about all the parts of a plant. And, you can extend the lesson into a hands-on creation where kids create their own ‘super plant’ out of a selection of different plant parts.” -Jed
  • Life Under a Log - “Students check out what kinds of creatures might be living under dead and downed trees. All you need is a wooded area and a bit of curiosity. I used this activity last week in a lesson about cycles. Students had visited the Market Garden and learned about compost the day before. We drew connections between the decomposition process that happens in the compost pile, and the breakdown of wood and plants being carried out by the creatures underneath the log. Both processes show how small creatures help cycle nutrients, so that the good stuff contained in the last generation of plants can be used by the next.” -Simon
  • The Fabulous Five (watch a video)- “This super fun scavenger hunt takes a little bit of prep time, but it’s well worth it. Students get running around to learn about the specific needs of plants (the Fab Five: sun, water, air, space, and soil), and it’s a great jumping off point for experiments that could explore the question, “What would happen to a plant if it was missing one of the five?” -Jed
  • Bean Plant Dress Up (watch a video) - “This activity pairs well with the Fab Five scavenger hunt. After learning about what plants need, students can learn about the different parts of a plant and the job each of them do. It’s a great way to slow down and gather as a group. It can be adapted into paper drawing or 3D artmaking, too.” -Jed

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