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by Zoe Hansen-DiBello
Grow Education Program Director

Inspired by our experience with 5th grade students and teachers at the Carlos Pacheco School in early March, Grow Education happily agreed to organize for local farmer Bill Braun to be a guest speaker for 60 3rd graders on March 27th. Farmer Bill is co-owner/cultivator of Ivory Silo Farm, located on the historic Howe Family Farm (formerly Smith Farm) in south Westport.

The timing was perfect for Farmer Bill to visit: the students just learned about plant life cycles in class and were preparing to plant seedlings that would later be transplanted in their community garden.

The conversation captivated the students from the start. Farmer Bill began, “Did you know seeds are magic?” Students looked at him in disbelief; however they became quick believers and listened to every word Farmer Bill had to say about the magic of a seed. A small bag of seeds was passed around the room, one for every student to take home.

Farmer Bill taught the students about every stage of growing produce, including all of the processes involved on the farm. From cultivating the fields so they are ready to be planted, to the large metal sheds (like these steel buildings Missouri farmers can purchase) which are used to house the produce before it is shipped off to the supermarkets, Bill left out no details and you could tell how much the students enjoyed it.

My eyes were drawn to a young boy sitting in the second row of the seating circle; he sat upright making sure he heard every word about these “magic seeds”. When it came time to ask general questions, his hand was one of the first to go up, when the room got a little noisy, he moved quickly along with ten other students to sit on the floor directly in front of Farmer Bill.

For those readers who are not teachers, 3rd graders are about 9 years old. The level of attention and the quality of questions for Farmer Bill were extraordinary coming from these young minds. A testament to the power of project-based, real world, relationship-centered teaching, with a touch of magic. We need more teaching and learning experiences like this example, throughout New Bedford and beyond.

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