Written by Caroline Horner on behalf of the Science in Nature program
Introduction and overall goals:
Waldorf School at Moraine Farm is pleased to submit this land use proposal for Mimi Batchelder’s “Bean shed” walled garden. Our goal is to give students, faculty, and community members the space to participate in meaningful learning while exploring our relationship to nature in the active farm and garden environment that surrounds our school. Healthy, hands-on outdoor experiences on this land would help us balance and fully integrate the curriculum from early childhood through grade eight. These broad experiences and our ongoing observations would nurture an understanding and appreciation of the delicate and complex relationships of the natural world and the students’ roles within it. The farm landscape provides a unique opportunity to participate in real work that brings a sense of responsibility and compassion to all involved. Our deep and well-guided relationship to agriculture will allow us to become caring stewards of the campus environment and our planet.
The ritual of farming provides a sense of security for all participants, as they will know what to expect in their day’s work. Hope and gratitude in the seasonal rhythm of new spring life, summer abundance, the shedding of fall, and the peaceful stillness of winter allow for feelings of awe, reverence and surrender. Mother Earth brings forth the cycles of life and death that allow us to experience loss, success and failure, and the subsequent feelings of patience and perseverance. The sacred practice of tending to the Earth will have us tending to our lives with deeper understanding and trust.
We want memories to be made and the community to be fed with ideas, food, physical work, joy, wonder, and connections. Practical lessons learned on the land prepare children for many diverse tasks in life and contribute to the development of a well-balanced individual through hands, heart and mind. Being in the garden, or on the farm, allows children to feel grounded and needed, while validating their contribution to the greater good. Our preparations and best practices allow children to cultivate their own education and feel the interconnectedness of all things, i.e., where food comes from and how to grow it.
The farm is part of our school name, a big reason why we moved here, and an essential theme in Waldorf education. We believe our program will help protect the unique characteristics of this historic property for all to enjoy. Our program will continue to celebrate the history of farming in New England, while inspiring a new generation of land stewards.
For our students
We plan to start programming with the Early Childhood and lower grades, as a manageable beginning focus. We envision a curriculum and set of activities that involves all of the older grades as we move forward.
Early Childhood classes and Grades 1-3 average 10-12 students. The 3rd Grade would visit twice a week, and the rest of the classes may visit once a week or less. Each visit would be less than an hour, although the 3rd grade may stay longer to accomplish larger tasks. Some classes would overlap their visits, taking on different work appropriate for their age. We will create a schedule of activity that allows for all classes to feel a deep sense of connection to the land and work, as well as allowing the peace and spaciousness of the property to be upheld.
The “Bean Shed” Walled Garden – A great place to start, this garden is starting to be revived, uncovered and loved. Bringing it to life again with the students has been rewarding and exciting so far. With three long garden beds, there is plenty of space for the younger children at school to share in the planting and chores together. The 1st and 2nd grades spread biodynamic compost from the Mansur’s yard. The 2nd and 3rd grades have planted pumpkins and sunflowers. The Goldenstar program has planted zinnia seeds. Other grades have helped in the weeding and will continue to help with planting more sunflowers and with watering. Coleen Ryan has been working with classes over the past few weeks and will continue to fine tune a schedule of what can be done.
We have recently added a greenhouse to the school property and are excited for the classes to explore the many uses a tool like this can provide, i.e., a warm shelter in winter and inclement weather for the Kindergartens, a place to start seeds and grow plants for the 2nd and 3rd grades, as well as a place of observation and learning for all who enter the space.
Sample curriculum activities from other Waldorf schools (some things are beyond our scope for now, but we like to dream):
Early Childhood – Carrot digging, snacking, and seasonal walks.
Kindergartens – Seasonal observations, cider pressing, potato digging, pumpkin harvesting, seeding radishes and peas, snacking and walks.
Grade 1 – Class garden, corn husking, cider pressing, apple drying, snacking on spinach and greens, and planting peas.
Grade 2 – Planting seeds, weeding, sawing wood, harvesting beets, group work social skills, and a “Three Sisters” planting of corn, beans and squash.
Grade 3 – Harvesting onions, potatoes, popcorn and field corn, winter squash and pumpkins, planting a cover crop, shelling beans, birdhouse building, planting corn, onions, winter squash and pumpkins, and grains.
Grade 4 – Pruning and mulching ornamental plantings and grain harvest.
Grade 5 – Broom making and sketching plants for Botany study.
Grade 6 – Corn harvest, tool identification and maintenance, tending class garden, caning raspberries, seed planting, and potting.
Grade 7 – Potato sorting, seed saving, and building toolboxes for carpentry project.
Grade 8 – Harvesting, nutrition study, basket weaving with natural materials gathered on site, and experiments with different growing methods.
For the land
To the extent possible, we intend to use biodynamic principles, which use natural forces to promote the health and fertility of the land. Michael and Mary Mansur are creating a plan for a field compost pile as well as some pollinator plants for the garden. Michael has collected goat manure, and along with kindergarten compost and biodynamic preps he will create a layered pile just outside the walls of the garden. Mary and Jocelyn Schaeffer will be starting seeds in the greenhouse and weeding a section of the garden to prep it for planting for the bees, which occupy a hive on the grounds of TTOR Moraine Farm.
For families and the wider community
The walled garden will provide a rich venue for educational and recreational offerings for our families and the wider community. Use of the garden will allow us to enhance and expand our community offerings, with a focus on farming, gardening, and people’s relationship to the land. For families, we envision seasonal festivals as well as educational activities (e.g., supporting our native pollinators, gardening with children, biodynamic agriculture, history of Moraine Farm, etc.).
Oversight and risk management:
With the help of an active parent volunteer committee, and the guidance of a faculty/staff member, we will ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the plot, as well as the safety of community members who use it during school hours and events. We will work closely with the school facilities manager about any needs that may arise.