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Prairie Creek Community School Farm Day

Young, bright, smiling faces lit up the Finca Mirasol Farm on Tuesday, October 21st. Laugher and eyes wide open to learning and understanding what it is like to be on a farm.

Prairie Creek Community School came to visit the farm to have a hands-on learning experience on the farm. Prairie Creek Community School is a public, elementary charter school located in Castle Rock, Minnesota. “Students and teachers join together in a passionate inquiry, project-based discovery, and hands-on learning.” There were three different stations with groups of 15-20 children, excited to learn and play.

P1000488At one station, students were racing in a farmer to chicken cycle race. Children were separated into 4 different rows (approximately five students each). Two rows were directly across from one another. Farmers ran from one side, corn in hand, to feed the chickens about 40 feet away from them. The “chicken”, or the next person in line, would “eat” the corn to get the sustenance to produce the egg. The “chickens” would then proceed to hold the egg underneath their chin, flap their wings, and run over to the farmer. The farmer, the student next in line, would “eat” the egg. The farmer would then compost the egg shell by throwing it into a bucket. This compost “grew” the corn that the next farmer in line would run to the next chicken, resulting in the cycle repeating itself.

A second station includeprairiecreekd sunflower harvesting. Children sat in a circle and grabbed a sunflower head to be picked for sunflower seeds. To continue the learning experience, the teachers asked the students to gather a handful of seeds and guess how many were in their hand. They were told to count them, and then make a guesstimate of how many seeds had been already harvested in the center of the tarp they were circled around. As they practiced their math, they continued to harvest the sunflowers and added to the growing pile of sunflower seeds. The teachers even created a fun version of “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck” for the true Minnesota version or for the broader audience,  “Duck, Duck, Goose” – instead replacing the words with “Sunflower, Sunflower, Seed.” A fun spin on a great classic game.

At the last station, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Chief Operating Officer of Main Street Project, explained how the aquaponics system works. He explained the design of the system, as well as the building and how it stays so warm. “The fans help circulate the heat from the day to heat the night.”  The children were eager to look around at the system and see the fish. Many questions were asked in each group such as, how many fish can those tanks hold – 16,000 and how much produce can the aquaponics produce – 3.5 to 4 acres of vegetables. The look of amazement on both the teachers and students faces makes the system so exciting.

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After a few rotations of these stations, the students were ready to eat lunch. They ate bagged lunches and then were encouraged to dispose of the waste in three different bags – garbage, recycling, and compost. Another learning opportunity! After lunch, the students were encouraged to participate in quiet time – searching for bugs near the gardens and/or drawing a sunflower in their journals.

It had been a wonderful day, beautiful skies, and wonderful fall weather. I had the opportunity of harvesting the sunflowers after the children left and realized it is a lot of work. If you make it fun, it can be an important part of the system. If there is a happier set of individuals doing the work (farming), they are more apt to defend the work and add passion to the system.

“Making the work fun and making sure workers are not being exploited, sitting with minimum wages or at the poverty level, making the work enjoyable through this system will produce better results.” Haslett-Marroquin summarizes a very important idea to changing how our food system is.