Agricultural Arts

 What came first the chicken or the egg? 

Well, at Mountain Phoenix many third graders have declared the chicken, but it is still a lively debate in the greenhouse most mornings and afternoons as they do their daily farm chores. You may have noticed some excitement this spring as we welcomed our first flock of eight chicks. Over the years, different sections of the school have taken up specific agricultural components. Preschool and kindergarten children have been caring for Buster the bunny who lives under the beautiful tree near the kindergarten playground; third graders have planted the gardens in front of the cottages; a parent has managed a honeybee hive that lives on the deck of the barn and provides pollination to our plants; and Parent Council has been growing organic plants in our greenhouse to raise money for festivals.  These wonderful initiatives, or seeds, have been slowing sprouting and taking root for several years, but this year we are starting to see the “true leaves” emerge giving us a clearer image of the individuality of our very own Phoenix Farm.

Why do we have a farm?

There is so much to learn about life from a farm. From experiencing how the sun changes throughout the year and connecting it to how we tell time and grow food, to caring for baby chicks and learning how all living things have a life cycle which ends (or begins) in the compost pile. Our goal is to create a biodynamic urban farm that will strengthen the school’s relationship with the earth, enlivening one of our core values of stewardship, while creating relevant educational opportunities for students, staff, and parents.  Our simple goal is for every third grader to eat something from a seed they planted or animal they raised, and our stretch goal is to have a Country Store or Farmers Market where middle school children get real world experience practicing business math concepts they learned in class while selling the bounty of our work with the community.

Who is responsible for the farm?

While agricultural components cross many different sections of the school, it is highlighted in the third grade when the practical work of farming is a specific part of the curriculum.  All third graders play an active role in caring for the farm and will do so until the fall when they hand it over to upcoming third grade classes. The farm is woven into all aspects of the day including math, language arts, and science. The farm is currently led by parent volunteers (Leah Hickler, Sarah Spica, and Gina Schley), and third grade teachers (Ms. Dilda and Mr. Erwin) but we have high hopes and dreams for a paid farmer on staff someday. 

What are the names of the hens?

The third grade teachers decided upon a flower theme and the children voted on the names. Here they are:  Poppy, Daisy, Buttercup, Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, and Indian Paintbrush.

Where will all the plants go?

The third graders started planting seeds in the greenhouse in February. Many of the seedlings will be planted in the school’s garden for the children to grow and harvest, but extras will be sold at the school’s annual plant sale. Plants will be ready for sale in mid-May so please swing by and check out our new variety.  Special thanks to Botanical Interest for donating an amazing variety of organic seeds!

How can people get involved?

If you have an interest in learning about the biodynamic activities on campus or would like to explore volunteer opportunities and/or gifting donations to support the farm, please contact gina.schley@mountainphoenix.org.

  – Written by Gina Schley for the 2017 spring issue of The Phoenix Flyer.