Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sunny Days

Hello, all. We've been on the campus of Scattergood Friends School for about twenty-four hours now. The drive here was just fine, although no one told Illinois that it was a relatively short leg of the trip--somehow it seemed to take us six hours to get across it. The kids invented a game they called Phone Tag (I called it Ceiling Pong). We noshed on snacks donated by the Weiser and Barbeau families. We saw wind farms, smelled Gary, Indiana, did not get lost, crossed the Mississippi River, and played on a teeter-totter at a rest area. The weather has been flawless.

Upon our arrival we immediately toured the farm with Mark Quee, Farm Manager at Scattergood. The kids learned about cover crops, nitrogen, the value of tubers, pig diets, butchering, farm collectives, agricultural experiments, electrified fences (no one got zapped), and why turkey fences are simpler than pig fences. We talked about packaging and transport. We met cows, turkeys, cats and pigs (the sheep were grazing elsewhere). We picked and/or ate raspberries, carrots, eggplants, Swiss chard, and basil. Saul took pictures.

Spirited games of Hay Bale Tag preceded and followed the tour, so we had had some exercise by the time we got our full campus tour from Savannah, a senior from Manistique who is Scattergood's only Michigander. The tour took us right up to dinnertime, when we ate with the rest of the school community and then sent George, Isobel and Saul to work in the kitchen. All Scattergood staff and students serve on work crews on the campus or farm; we are joining in while here. The rest of ran around like maniacs outside, playing tag and poking around in the woods behind the main building. Neither the tree swing nor the hammock will ever be quite the same. We went over to the art building after that to write and sketch out the day's adventures. In addition to journal entries, students made giant butcher-block renditions of (1) the drive from Ann Arbor to West Branch, (2) the research questions, and (3) their impressions of the farm tour.

Last night, after a little free time and final walk around the campus, we retired around ten o'clock. Geogre and I collected iPads, iPods and other tools of the twenty-first century. After lights out, I sat out in the hall, and heard frantically repressed giggling coming from the rooms for about ten minutes. And then I heard absolutely nothing.

The kids slept well (so did the adults) and we woke up pretty refreshed before seven. Everyone got to breakfast on time, and then we cleaned out the SK bus. Special shout-out to Hannah and Saul for sweeping. Saul speculated that some of the debris he was sweeping up came from the Stratford trip in May. After that, we met with Nicole Wolf-Camplin, Scattergood's academic dean, who sat with us by the big oak in the circle of central campus and sketched out the Scattergood program. We reciprocated, explaining how SK works--the project- and theme-based model. Then we met briefly in the Meeting House with Christine Ashley, Scattergood's Head of School, before walking across to the farm for the morning's work.

Under Mark's supervision, we harvested a thick row of carrots, then topped them and crated them up. (Mark told the community at lunchtime that SK had picked the yield of 10,000 carrot seeds.) Then we moved south to a sweet potato patch, where we cleared the vines off three or four experimental rows of planting. Each row was treated with a different anti-weed tactic: plastic mulch, organic mulch, or nothing at all. Tomorrow we will help the ninth grade science class record and analyze data from this experiment.

After that, we had another round of Hay Bale Tag, and took the bus back over to the campus for lunch. Cory, Aristea and I served with the kitchen crew; Mike and Jianmarco worked with Dana Foster, the livestock manager, who is talking with the George and the whole group while I write this; Jonathan, Taylor and Hannah worked with Mike, the facilities crew chief. The rest of the students went with George to take more pictures and video. Following crew time, we went to the Meeting House (seen in the school logo) for worship, which, in the Quaker tradition, means sitting in complete silence for forty-five minutes. I think it's safe to say that this was another novel experience.

This afternoon there will be ultimate frisbee and soccer, then dinner; after that, we'll have some more collective time to talk about our activities here and plan for our return. Tomorrow morning, it's breakfast, pack the bus, ninth grade science over at the farm, a final round of Hay Bale Tag, and then on the road, hopefully around 10:00 Iowa time (an hour earlier than Michigan). Given that we'll stop for lunch en route. we should be arriving at SK around 6:30. We will call when we're somewhere between Battle Creek and Jackson.

I expect we will sleep well again tonight.

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