Hand students the knowledge to become self sustaining citizens - How and why to teach farm topics in the classroom
Instead of teaching full time this year, I chose to stay at home and support my Grandmother, who recently moved in with us. I also run a farm called Our Desert Homestead. However, as always I couldn't stay away from teaching. So I recently started teaching Farm Classes on the homestead and it's so much fun! I feel like the teacher from Sid the Science Kid. We take time to learn how to be scientists and we get hands on with our topics.
I know that this type of teaching isn't an option for everyone, but I thought I would write a post today about how and why to include farm topics into the classroom.
Why include farm topics into the classroom?
First, I am sure many of you are saying farm topics have nothing to do with my curriculum, so why would I teach them? Well, actually farm topics relate to many different science standards, including animal and plant adaptations and natural resources. However, even if these topics don't relate to your curriculum, knowing where our food comes from is vitally important to raising conscious consumers and good citizens. Part of the rise of factory farming is because we have become so removed from our food source that we don't know, or care, how those animals or plants were raised. Getting students to understand a sustainable lifestyle can help them in ways that learning the chemical properties of argon never can.
Additionally, just like art or music hook in certain students, working with plants and animals speaks to some students. I have seen struggling students come alive when planting seeds or petting a goat. When we can spark a love of learning in children, we should always try to do so.
What are farm topics?
Okay, okay, you're saying. I can see the importance of teaching farm topics, but I'm not a farmer. What topics would even be included? Here are a few of the topics I have on my year long plan:
- The Incredible, Edible Egg
- Feathers and Fur - Animal Coverings on the Farm
- What do Farm Animals Eat? And How?
- Turning Food Waste into Food Treasure - the Basics of Composting
- Planting and Growing Vegetables
- Milking a Goat
- Building and Growing in Greenhouses
- Cooking from the Garden
- Preserving Food through Canning and Dehydrating
- What is a Weed? The Plants We Choose to Hate
- Collecting & Using Rainwater
- Do Plants Grow in the Winter?
- The History of Harvest Festivals
As you can see, these topics cover science and social studies topics that we already have in our curriculum. We're just taking a focused approach in order to include the farm.
How do I include farm topics in the classroom?
I know what you're thinking, it's easy for me to include farm topics, I have all of the farm animals! How would you go about covering these topics without a weekly field trip to the farm? Here are a few suggestions:
- Reach out to a local farmer. Support their farm by buying eggs for an egg unit or seeds for a planting unit. Tell them what you're doing and I'm sure they'll support you and your class.
- Reach out to your parent and teacher community. Raising backyard chickens is a huge trend. You may have a "farmer" right at your building who could let you borrow eggs, chicks, vegetables, etc. Or they might be willing to send you videos of their animals.
- Grow plants in your classroom - really grow them, not just start seeds and send them home. Herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, lettuce, and other plants grow well in pots. Look up container vegetable gardening. If you can grow plants on a patio, you can grow them in your classroom. And the kids can be responsible for watering and caring for the plants.
- Incubate eggs in your classroom. Many farmers will be happy to give you fertilized eggs to incubate in your classroom. As chicks hatch, they can be raised in a brooder for 6 - 8 weeks and then sent back to the farmer to live out their life on the farm.
- Cook with your kids. Cooking covers so many standards! Have students help prepare food with farm fresh ingredients. Let them crack open that green egg and see that it's not green inside. Let them tear apart fresh spinach. Even your pickiest eaters will be willing to try.
- Dehydrate food! You don't even need a dehydrator, simply lay cut food onto some cheese cloth. Cover with another layer of cheese cloth and watch the food wither up. Then rehydrate some and let kids watch in amazement.
The Incredible, Edible Egg Farm Lesson
I hope I have inspired you to try some farm topics in your classroom. I will have more posts coming this year with specific lessons I have done. Additionally, I will be posting some lesson plans and projects specific to farm lessons to make your job easier! Until then, here are a few of the things we did on the farm during our Incredible, Edible Egg lesson:
- We used my Graphic Organizers to compare and contrast a chicken egg, a duck egg, and a turkey egg.
- We tested out different kinds of egg cartons to see which protected our egg the best.
- We measured the circumference and height of different eggs.
- We looked at egg shells under a magnifying glass.
- We read the book Chickens Aren't the Only Ones and learned about other animals that lay eggs.
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