Roots: We help children connect with the land, food, themselves, and each other, not just by bringing them to presence ON the Earth, but IN the Earth. With their hands in the soil, we stimulate the tendrils of experience that take hold in their hearts and minds. We grow a lot of carrots—they allow us to complete an entire harvesting cycle from pulling them, bunching them, washing them, and eating them. We compost, plant seeds and cultivate, recognizing that the roots will only be as strong as the soil that supports them. Our job as educators is to cultivate the soil so that young people’s roots can more easily take hold.
The land where we interact with kids, primarily the American River Ranch, is deeply rooted in cultural history. These cultural roots are the stories and skills of the native people that ground us in this place. We look back to remember the community that once thrived here before us, and investigate our own place in the community, whether it be in Rancho Cordova, South Sacramento, or even Armenia.
Wings: Much like the spirit of our guiding principle “response-ability,” we provide opportunities to make healthy choices. The skills and knowledge we impart may or may not have an immediate impact, but ultimately what we hope is that these lessons not only take hold, but that kids can “take flight” with these ideas and skills throughout their lives.
Chickens are also a great farm animal to base important lessons upon. Our chickens and coop allow children the opportunities to care for something, they provide meaningful tasks by feeding them and cleaning the coop, the eggs we eat, the fertility they provide, links to compost, and they even provide opportunities to discuss bullying openly. One of our chickens, Lefty, is literally at the bottom of the pecking order. She is visibly scarred, and her story activates care and compassion in the children.
Our instructors use Bird Language often during our interactions with kids. A deeper knowledge and awareness of birds, what they are doing, why, and how, is often a reflection of the concentric rings we ourselves send out, but also puts us in touch with what is happening around us. Practicing Bird Language activates all of our senses—our eyes and peripheral vision, our ears and the sounds we hear in all directions, the feelings inside of us and how our body feels in the sit spot. We also connect the birds we witness regularly with the birds’ role here at the farm and our Integrated Pest Management Plan. Notice how the herons catch gophers, and the kites catch other small animals, the relationship between the red-tailed hawks and other land animals, including our own chickens… ~Alyssa Kassner, Youth Education Director
The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence. ~ Denis Waitley