The gray clouds and drizzle did not dampen the spirits of the fourth graders from the Lake Champlain Waldorf School as they hammered, measured and sawed at New Village Farm on Wednesday. While the students always enjoy “Farm Days”, this one was particularly special.
Nearly six months ago, the fourth graders’ study of Vermont and Native American history culminated in an overnight stay at New Village Farm (NVF). The children cooked a meal (over open fire and in the clay oven) using vegetables they had harvested from the farm, oats they had ground, and apples they had picked. The group slept in the unfinished barn at NVF that they had helped to frame when they were in third grade.
Over the winter the fourth grade kept its connection to the farm—and thought a lot about that unfinished barn. “Each week in 4th grade, we have a weekly class meeting where we discuss ways that we can help each other and our community,” explains class teacher Meredith Markow of Shelburne. “The children unanimously decided that they wanted to do what they could to help the Farm and complete the barn.”
The class chose to run a pay-what-you-wish bake sale, and they put their study of fractions to good use as they prepared farm-to-feast treats. The children asked customers at Shelburne Supermarket and the Waldorf School to donate what they could in exchange for cupcakes, cookies, and other treats. Thanks to the generosity of the community, the class donated $1031.63 to New Village Farm.
Michaela Ryan of Shelburne, the head farmer and founder of New Village Farm, used the funds to buy siding for the barn. Michaela and NVF builder, Nirmag Leggett, designed a kid-friendly building technique so that the children could participate in the entire process of applying the siding. “The kids did such an amazing job raising the funds,” said Michaela. “They deserve to be a real and integral part of the finished project.”
On Wednesday, the fourth graders gathered at the barn and learned how to measure, cut, and nail the siding into place. “The kids will do the inside layer without us having to worry about the aesthetics of the odd bent nail, hammer dent or slightly imperfect cut,” explains Michaela. “Then the wider finish boards will go over this inside layer, covering any flaws, and the kids will come back again to help screw these outer boards into place.”
The fourth graders spent the afternoon working with their farm mentors to position the boards on the east side of the barn. There is still a lot to do, and the children are eager to return. “I continue to be awed by this class and their dedication to the world around them,” said Michaela. “They are such and enthusiastic, hard working, and compassionate crew.”
For the rest of the school year the fourth graders will be making weekly visits to New Village Farm to work on the barn and study the farm animals as part of their Human Being and Animal/Zoology curriculum. “I am so grateful to Michaela for what she has gifted back to the children,” said teacher Meredith Markow.