LA GRANGE, NY (WCBS 880) – Just outside Poughkeepsie, Sprout Creek is a unique farm – an outdoor classroom full of kids.
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“We wanted to really replace the classroom with something that was very dynamic,” says Sister Margot Morris. “It was begun as an educational venture.”
An order of Catholic nuns run this 200-acre farm and creamery and they host school groups that stay a week or more.
“We have cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, and sometimes, we have turkeys,” says Morris. “They have to milk the cows. They have to milk the goats. They have to bake the bread for the day because, otherwise, they won’t have any bread.”
LINK: Sprout Creek Farm
Morris is in charge of Sprout Creek Farm and just loves the reaction the first time the children meet the goats.
“There’s nothing better for a kid than a kid,” she says.
The children also tend the garden.
“[We have] tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, peas, lettuces of all sorts, cabbages, broccolis,” she says.
“What’s it like when a student pulls that out of the ground and makes the connection?” asked WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.
“They can’t believe their eyes. This isn’t just city kids. This is suburban kids. This is any kid,” she says.
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It’s about getting back to basics at Sprout Creek – connecting with the Earth and learning to be responsible.
“Converse over good food, just sit and enjoy each other’s company, look at each other in the eye,” she says.
Morris says the students embrace the responsibility.
“They feel like these animals are dependant on them for something. That makes them necessary. They like that. Kids love to be necessary,” she says.
The children can taste the fruits of their labor – fifteen different cheeses that are sold around the country. They make between 35,000 pounds and 40,000 pounds of cheese a year.
A group of sixth graders came all the way from California.
“I learned a lot about the milking process for the cows and the goats,” said one girl.
“I also learned that cows are very smart. They have have their own stalls and they know their names and where to go,” a girl said. “Here, you get to see the animals, pet them. You get to learn how each animal has its own personality and how they would react to different things in different ways. In a classroom, it’s all the same.”
“It’s really interesting to know that the cheeses that they sell here are completely natural and they’re really good, too,” said another.
“I hope they learn to unplug, to take deep breaths, and to be around animals, and to associate what you’re eating on your plate with what you’ve just helped grow,” said school administrator Christine O’Neill.