Bringing the classroom to the farm

MORGAN – A couple hundred youngsters from five area elementary schools left their classrooms and went down to the farm for the Conservation and Farm Field Day Friday.The Orleans Country Natural Resources Conservation District sponsored the annual event at the Haywood Farm. The students learned many hands-on techniques.“The hands-on experience really takes the kids out of the classroom,” said Dayna Cole, manager for the conservation district. “It lets them see it, feel it, do it and get an understanding for it.”Elizabeth Grzebien from Irasburg Village School, who recently moved to Vermont, agreed, as did Linda Phelan, principal of Holland Elementary School. Dick Delfavero, owner of the Haywood Farm, has always been an advocate for education. Delfavero and Cole both said that, even though the Northeast Kingdom is a farming community, many local youngsters may not be well versed on agriculture.“There hasn’t been a great deal of emphasis on it,” said Delfavero. Hands-on learning opportunities have several important aspects such as keeping the farming industry alive and teaching the children about good nutrition. “It’s a good way to give a subtle message that they should be careful about what they eat, how much they eat, what’s good for them and what isn’t so good for them.”“Every kid needs a good jumpstart in life,” said Kristen Sotherden, prevention specialist from the Vermont Department of Health. “The best way we can do that is to start young.”  Kids have a good influence on what their parents buy at the store, Sotherden said.The schools mandated the field trip.“We looked at the curriculum and decided a lot of the things they’re going to be learning today really matched well with our science curriculum and also our math curriculum,” said April Lane from Irasburg Village School. “I think a lot of the local agricultural education is lost on some of these kids. Some work at farms, but we have some students and teachers who have never been to a farm.”Lane hopes the children now better understand where their food comes from, that there’s a future in agriculture and the importance of the environment.The day went well with her student’s studies on Vermont history, said Amy Nadeau from Derby Elementary School. She said the students need to know what’s going in the state and how to take care of the state because they live here. Learning about natural resources and farming is important, because it answers questions like where milk comes from, said Chance Hodgeman, a student from Derby Elementary School.Irasburg Village School student Kristen Moore learned how to make a basket and how to determine the age of a fish.Andy Paonessa of South Albany taught the youngsters how to make a basket.“It’s a tradition that’s really old,” he said of basket making. “For me, it’s important to carry on traditions and reclaim old ways. I also feel it’s important to use your hands and make things.”