The article I am reviewing is “Get Out!: Place-Based Education in the Hudson Valley.” It discusses place-based learning, specifically at the Waldorf School at Hawthorne Valley Farm as well as other farm-based education programs in the Hudson Valley.
In place-based education, schooling is based “around immersing students in their community to enrich development in a range of subjects, while also building character and creativity.” In the case of Hawthorne Valley Farm, this means students engage in activities on the 500-acre biodynamic farm, which “also includes a CSA, research facility, publishing company, art program and theater.”
“[In 2016, n]inth-grade students [,at Hawthorne Valley’s Waldorf school, worked] with soil experts to enhance and revamp the local composting program. Meanwhile, kindergartners explore[d] the forest and [brought] compost to pigs, and third-graders live[d] on the farm for a full week. [Generally, students will wake] at 5 a.m. to retrieve chicken eggs and milk the cows. Part of this is to understand the rhythm of land work, but another part is to simply work practically with their hands.”
Student transformation is testified by Rachel Schneider, director of the Hawthorne Valley Farm Place-Based Learning Center, “who had her realization with place-based education in the late 1970s, when she was a teacher bringing schoolchildren to the farm.”
As cited in the article, Rachel is compelled by the power of the approach: “‘I couldn’t believe what happened to me in the weeks we were there,’ she says. ‘The sense of waking up to this beautiful, natural world that surrounded me, and the incredible need that we all felt to do physical work, wanting to sweep in the cows. I couldn’t believe the difference in the children I was teaching.'”
The article cites two other examples of this programming, one at San Miguel Academy in Newburgh and the other in Kingston.
A great way for students to move away from dependence on processed food is to have them be involved in the creation and care that it takes to produce “Real Food”. The place-based learning model, therefore, has implications for healing our earth as it fosters awareness and habits that can serve a new generation of land stewards.