Christa Nunez and the Learning Farm after-school program | Community Connections

ITHACA, NY – In beautiful Ithaca, Christa Núñez savors a glorious late fall as children play around the learning farm, brushing a beloved goat, sheep or rabbit. Unbeknownst to us, Christa is constructing a plan to connect us all to the wonders of the natural world. “Everything we do on the farm, we take to schools,” she said. “Enfield Primary School children learn about life on the farm: learning, growing, eating, discussing the best way to grow food and co-creating healthy communities together through what we let’s call the farm school fair and edible.”

At the learning farm, children from kindergarten to high school are fully connected to the biodiverse and dynamic work of nature. And the same vibrancy is accessible on the school grounds just down the road in Enfield. “Fruits and vegetables are planted and devoured, beloved animals are brushed and fed, cleaned and cared for,” Chrisa said. “Our healthy plants, our trees, the waterfall and the pond… We use outdoor spaces to create a fun and healthy model for communities and schools to bridge the gap between experience and education. This is where the real learning begins.

“We are in our second year at Enfield Elementary School, where we are excited to pilot our student learning program. Principal Keith Harrington, Deputy Principal Aileen Grainger and [Ithaca City School District’s Equity and Inclusion Officer] Mary Grover are key players in this dynamic partnership. We define each step together. Keith and I wrote our latest grant for the ever-generous Park Foundation. Enfield teachers are on board as the nutrition and anti-racism based curriculum continues to grow in tandem with agricultural school infrastructure including a greenhouse, hoop, chicken coop/pen , raised beds, outdoor learning pavilion, working orchard, sensory garden and forest scholar, plus garden beds.

Field trips to the farm create a natural bridge through which children can gain a multicultural, multilingual perspective on what farming is: a community where all voices can be heard and all walks of life can be empowered to adopt healthy food systems. »

On the farm, the after-school program and summer program provide children with daily exposure to the great outdoors, as well as multicultural experiences like sushi making and Japanese garden architecture, rope skipping double Dutch, West African cuisine, the symbiosis of native plants and pollinators. study, indigenous basket weaving, so that working parents can be sure that their children will have lots of fun in a safe and healthy setting, connected to their community.

Recent emails from parents to Christa say things like, “I’m so glad my kids can spend after school with you and your fantastic staff and other campers at your amazing place. Historically, my two youngest children take a long time to come out of their shells. It was a joy to see them so happy and at ease during the pick-up. It really makes my heart feel so good and grateful as a parent. Thank you!”

While programming has been piloted at Enfield Elementary School, the Learning Farm afterschool program will begin serving K-12 students from all schools in the Ithaca City School District, with bus transportation provided, from 2022. The waiting list is open. K-5 students are guided and supported by counselors-in-training (high school students) and leaders-in-training (middle school) who learn about child care, child development, leadership, group collaboration, safety and first aid. “The older students help create activities and teach the younger ones. Their input and advice are essential to the success of the program.

As Ithacans, Enfielders and community members hear about the lively events, Christa welcomes more local farmers, contractors, volunteers and observers. “Local farmers have visited our school and shared tips and insights they have picked up over sometimes a lifetime of farming, or several generations of ancestors working the land,” she said. . “Entrepreneurs stepped in to help build infrastructure large and small – raised beds and a greenhouse, sheepfold and enclosures for farm animals. There’s nothing more enjoyable than completing a project together, having learned new skills and developed talents along the way with lots of help from others.

Woven throughout the happy times are the problems our little people will increasingly face as they grow older. Christa said: “Very early on we are starting to lift the veil on how food is produced on huge agribusiness farms – how things happen when small farms go bankrupt and animals spend their whole lives in dark, dirty warehouses, separated at birth from their mothers…As equity declines in America’s local food chain, we must and are solution-oriented. It is our responsibility to do better. Our children are the leaders of tomorrow. Together, we plant in healthy ways, we take care of our precious Earth and our neighbors. We learn to walk carefully in the natural world, trying to disturb as little as possible the miraculous ecosystem on which we depend. The choices we make today will determine our future and our future tomorrow.

“As we live and learn, we share our growth with our partner school district, then New York State, the region and beyond. When young children are supported and empowered in their embrace of the natural world, we can rest safe in the knowledge that we have done all we can to protect the environments in our care and ensure the natural regeneration of everything. that nature gives us so generously. ours.”

Stay tuned for a late winter announcement about an exciting guest coming to Equitable and Edible Farm School.