When Hannah isn’t touring the education gardens with excitable young summer campers, you may find her at a local historical museum. Somewhere between these two spaces, this Farm Camp Educator has found her passion. “My hope is that the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive,” she says of her fulfillment of teaching outside of the standardized classroom space, married with her curation-drawn quirkiness.
The recent Bates graduate has extended her leave from her hometown of Brookline, MA for one more Maine summer – this time conveniently situated on the 626 oceanfront acres of Wolfe’s Neck Farm. “I had never heard of it before, but I’m learning more and more about this space each day,” she says of coming to the farm for her seasonal educator position. She hasn’t been the only one learning about Wolfe’s Neck Farm’s endless offerings; hundreds of Farm Campers ranging from ages 4-16 are experiencing a hands-on approach to learning outside of the classroom this summer.
A group of twelve educators, college students and recent graduates like Hannah, each develop a unique curriculum to dive their group of campers into a day of learning in the diverse spaces around the farm. One older group constructed an arbor made of natural materials on the education garden wood line – team building at its finest. Another group experimented with cheese making, and some were even in the right place at the right time when they witnessed a calf being born in the livestock barn.
Through it all, you’re sure to see smiles. Hannah has been especially drawn to the ‘Peapods’ age group (4-Kindergarten), who are quick to draw connections and express their thrill of discovery. “I love how excited they get when they’re walking through the gardens. I’ve found that’s when they’re most engaged, when we’re actively walking around and I’m showing them things and they’re point things out, too.” She’s even taken them beyond the gardens and on a hay wagon ride to the coastline. There they clutched onto their magnifying glasses, seeing what rocks they could find and calling their friends over to compare the geologic discoveries. Sensing a pattern in the learning style of this younger age group, Hannah has found that farm-based education has no age limits.
Hannah works to create hands-on engagement in many authentic moments on the farm. Trying herbs in the gardens (maintained by the Teen Ag Program) has been a real treat for the young campers. They are open to the taste tests and sharing their observations with peers. Hannah reminisced on her doubts when offering them tarragon, thinking the peppery taste may be overwhelming. To her pleasant surprise, the only feedback she heard was from one articulate girl in the group who concluded matter-of-factly that “this one has a very strong taste.” Later in the week, the group got to say hi to the Teen Ag crew members, and Hannah explained to them that this group planted the herbs they had sampled earlier.
It’s been a treat for not only the summer campers, but Hannah too, as she finds new and creative ways to spark curiosity in her camp groups each day. She’s inspired by the many landscapes within Wolfe’s Neck Farm, a place that lends itself to teaching about ecology, and the independence to create unique lessons where she can bring in her humanities background. The most gratifying of all, though, has been being able to create themes and connections for campers, and watching what happens when you bring children outside.