This week's journey at our summer camp brought us an enriching viewing experience of the documentary "The Biggest Little Farm." The emotional tale of a couple and their steadfast dog striving to transform barren farmland into a flourishing and biodiverse haven struck a chord with our young participants. Engaging in discussions about the film, our students exhibited a profound understanding of the intricate harmony existing among all farm organisms. They keenly absorbed the lesson that challenges can be met by seeking inspiration from nature's ingenious solutions. Notably, the students grasped the concept that while coyotes may pose a threat to chickens, a well-designed solution, such as employing farm dogs as guardians, could elevate the role of coyotes to gopher controllers! Our learners contemplated the farm's design choices and contemplated how these insights could be integrated into their upcoming final design projects.
Our captivating field trip this week led us to the vibrant farmers market. Amidst a colorful array of seasonal fruits and vegetables, our participants reveled in the experience of selecting and purchasing items. This outing also doubled as an opportunity for culinary preparation, as students took an active role in procuring ingredients for pickling and crafting momos later in the week.
Culinary endeavors took a delicious turn with the long-awaited momo-making session. Students immersed themselves in the rich history of momos and diverse dumplings worldwide. Hands-on activities included vegetable shredding and dough preparation. In line with our exploration of preservation methods, the focus shifted to fermentation. Pickling cucumbers became a collaborative venture, with students engaging in the art of crafting brine and infusing it with flavorful herbs and spices. Anticipation builds as the students eagerly await the results of their pickling efforts!
Within our garden's nurturing embrace, students continued to nurture their seedlings, observe the growth of vegetables, and contribute to the well-being of our worm bin. The garden radiated with the infectious curiosity and excitement of our young participants. The burgeoning cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes served as triumphant markers of our collective efforts.
D.I.Y. sessions unfolded with a spotlight on botanical illustration. Students devoted time to observing plants both in our garden and through photo references, translating their observations into meticulous sketches, watercolor paintings, and tempera creations. The addition of beautifully painted mini terracotta pots further showcased their artistic flair. A delightful culmination of this artistic journey came as each student carefully selected a petite succulent to grace their newly adorned pot, a keepsake to adorn their homes.
Our week's adventure culminated in a trip to Travers Park, where spirited camaraderie fueled a friendly competition between groups A and B. The objective: to collect the remnants of water balloons strewn across the grounds. Group B emerged triumphant, collecting an impressive five jars of discarded water balloon fragments. Beyond the tangible victory, the most heartening outcome was witnessing the inspiring ripple effect as children outside our program joined the cleanup, united by shared enthusiasm and a commitment to fostering a cleaner environment.
-Teacher Gina Piersanti
In Group A, week 3 began with the class sharing exciting stories about their weekends. What amazed Emma and I the most was their application of permaculture practices outside of the classroom. Some campers composted, others helped in community gardens, and many spent extra time soaking up the sun.
Later in the day, the campers were introduced to some real-life applications of permaculture in the documentary film, Biggest Little Farm. Accompanied by interactive worksheets and illustrations, the campers were excited to share what they had learned. From ducks eating snails, owl barns, pesticide-free crops, and healthy soil, each camper was newly equipped with information to care for the planet in healthy ways.
To complement the film, we took a field trip to the farmer’s market to explore how vegetables and fruits are sold within the community after harvest. The kids were able to source ingredients for our special culinary treat - momos! After discussing the history and technique for folding momos, our steamed dumplings turned out beautifully (and tasted delicious). While dumplings were waiting to be steamed, each camper had a chance to chop cucumbers and add various ingredients into a jar to prepare for fermentation. We discussed dehydration the previous week, so fermentation was the next form of food preservation to be discussed.
After eating our yummy snacks, the campers checked out the vegetables growing in our rooftop garden. What we all saw shocked us! Numerous tomatoes, a giant cucumber, aromatic herbs, and edible flowers had flourished. Each camper also checked on their tiny sprouts and adopted new plants. The campers drew inspiration from the garden for their watercolor botanical paintings. From pollinators to ripe vegetables, and crawling insects, the campers used their creativity to bring their paintings to life.
The week ended with ice cream, sprinklers, and a competitive game of “pick up the water balloons” at Travers Park. The campers enjoyed cooling off after a fun and busy week. Each left with a hand painted succulent pot, full tummies, and many fun-filled summer memories!
-Teacher Hannah Berman
The second week of our summer camp was an exhilarating whirlwind of activities and learning experiences!
In our culinary sessions, we delved into the fascinating realm of food preservation. Our focus on dehydration kicked off on Monday, where we skillfully prepared various fresh fruits such as mangoes and apricots for the dehydrator. The following day was a delightful revelation as students eagerly observed the transformation of the fruits and relished tasting the delectable results. Notably, we also crafted a mouthwatering batch of guacamole, which proved to be a resounding hit among all!
Our permaculture class embarked on an exciting journey by initiating group farm designs. Working collaboratively in small teams, students ingeniously applied their existing knowledge of farms and gardens to curate their unique farm plans. Witnessing the depth of their understanding was awe-inspiring. With remarkable insight, students compiled an extensive list of essentials for a thriving farm: from vital water sources and electricity to an array of crops, animals, and pollinators. Their teamwork culminated in meticulously detailed plans adorned with captivating artwork. These blueprints encompassed diverse elements, from pollinator havens and intricately designed barns to composting zones and an assortment of flourishing crops and animals.
Turning our attention to gardening, we dedicated our efforts to nurturing the tree pits adorning the school's frontage. Drawing from our knowledge of soil health, we meticulously layered compost and wood chips, meticulously watering and introducing new plants and flowers. Upstairs, our garden flourished as we witnessed the seedlings from the previous week's planting venture into new growth. Through meticulous notes in their observation journals, students marveled at the remarkable changes occurring in their cherished plants. Our commitment to sustainability shone through as we nourished the worms in our composting bin, diligently converting food scraps from our culinary endeavors into nutrient-rich compost. The growth of cucumbers and the bloom of sunflowers ignited an atmosphere of excitement and care for our thriving garden.
Hands-on creativity took center stage during our D.I.Y. activities, where students ingeniously crafted solar ovens over two class sessions. This ingenuity culminated in a thrilling Thursday, as quesadillas were expertly prepared on the roof garden using the sun's heat alone.
An unforgettable highlight was our captivating field trip to the science barge on the Hudson River in Yonkers. Here, we unraveled the mysteries of maximizing produce yield in a confined space while serving the local community. Enthralled students immersed themselves in the hydroponic growing system of the greenhouse, appreciating the innovative approach to sustainable farming.
Our week drew to a colorful close with a communal viewing of "The Lorax," followed by a heartwarming visit to Traverse Park on Thursday. With vibrant chalk drawings adorning the park, our students felt a sense of unity and belonging. One student beautifully captured the sentiment, remarking, "It's only been two weeks, but I already feel like we're family!"
These remarkable experiences underscore the deep connections forged in just a short span of time, emphasizing the transformative power of our summer camp.
-Teacher Gina Piersanti