August 27, 2021
Great Kids Farm Readies for Return of Field Trips After Inaugural Summer Camp
New Experiences Coming in 2021-2022 School Year
With 33 acres of forests, fields, a stream, greenhouses, and a barn full of animals, City Schools’ Great Kids Farm offers hands-on opportunities for students to connect farm and plate. The farm supports the district’s Blueprint for Success by offering programs that reinforce curricular concepts, strengthen environmental literacy, and promote healthy habits for the whole child. The fresh tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and other produce are used in healthy eating lessons, taken home by field trip students, and sent to City Schools’ culinary programs.
During the 2018-2019 school year — before COVID restrictions — more than 2,200 students visited the Farm, with thousands more benefiting from educational materials and Great Kids Farm’s expertise in guiding school communities as they created their own gardens.
During last year’s distance learning, the Great Kids Farm staff pivoted, delivering the farm experience to 3,780 students from 63 different city schools via “virtual field trips.” Farm staff designed and assembled 5,207 herb garden kits that were distributed to 2nd-grade students at 85 schools as part of the “What Do Plants Need?” curriculum. Students in upper grades received mushroom, aquaponics, and vermicompost kits.
Yet even with their incredible success in adapting the benefits of the physical farm to distance learning, the staff (and animals!) of Great Kids Farm were eager to welcome students back. For years, staff had hoped to launch a summer camp program, and thanks to the prolific summer learning opportunities offered as part of City Schools’ “Reconnect, Restore, Reimagine” plan, it became a reality in 2021.
At the free “Great Kids Farm and Forest Camp” this past summer, two groups of 3rd-5th graders (35 students in all) spent a week connecting with nature, building leadership development skills, and engaging in critical thinking through hands-on experiences. From cooking healthy snacks with produce they harvested, to building their own container gardens, to exploring the wooded trails and streams around the farm, campers developed a new appreciation for how healthy environments make for healthy people.
The campers were encouraged and coached by high school interns who, in addition to their work as camp counselors, helped prepare the farm for the upcoming school year — caring for the animals, maintaining seedlings for new school garden projects, and preparing the fields for a bountiful harvest!
In the end-of-camp survey, one parent said, “Wonderful program overall. My kid's first in-person experience since the pandemic began; he's been very nervous about it. This was the PERFECT activity for him to begin his re-entry. That it was outdoors made him feel safer, and the activities were reportedly ALL fun. Thank you all SO much!”
Thanks to the invaluable lessons from delivering distance learning, Great Kids Farm is ready to unveil new experiences for schools and students in the 2021-2022 school year.
Says Anne Rosenthal, Farm to School Specialist, “Last year was challenging, but it forced us to get creative and rethink our approaches so that we could continue to expand our reach. Now, in addition to resuming in-person field trips, we’re focusing on bringing the farm to the classroom with in-person lessons on animals, plants, and farm-fresh cooking.”
“The programs we built for distance learning aren’t going away — virtual field trips and ‘Facetime the Farmer’ are here to stay. With our first successful year of camp in the books, we’re looking forward to expanding our summer programming as well.”
Find more info about the district’s free Farm to School programs and resources at www.baltimorecityschools.org/farm-school.