Getting to Know You: An interview with Kelly Davis, On The Land Teacher

We are offering short pieces about faculty and staff in the Apple Core to introduce staff and to bridge our three campuses. This interview was conducted by Mary Fettig.

Kelly Davis took a circuitous route on her way to us here at Orchard Valley, and we are so pleased she made that journey!

Kelly spent her childhood in Pomfret, VT and then attended the University of Vermont, graduating in 2014 with a B.S. degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Conservation and Biodiversity. From Burlington she travelled out to Washington state, then to Saint John in the Virgin Islands, and finally back to VT, moving to East Charleston up in the Northeast Kingdom. All along the way she immersed herself in work that prepared her for designing and writing the curriculum for the On The Land program which she teaches here at Orchard Valley's East Montpelier Main Campus.

Kelly's love of the outdoors and the natural world began as a child. Her parents had a landscaping business that has grown into a farm, and they were always bringing home orphaned or hurt animals to add to their family. Kelly fondly remembers having a "pet"pigeon that lived on their screened porch. As a young woman she worked at the Farm & Wilderness Camps in Plymouth, VT, first in their day camp and then becoming the Program Director of the Salt Ash Mountain Camp, a wilderness skills camp for teens. Through high school friends that had attended Upper Valley Waldorf School, along with Waldorf-schooled campers at Farm & Wilderness, Kelly began to notice the "inexplicable" sturdiness which is a result of Waldorf education. She became attracted to the "mysterious and enchanting" aspects of Waldorf and she allowed that seed to be planted within.

After initially declaring Engineering as her major, Kelly soon switched over to Environmental Science and it was at UVM where she was able to tailor her studies towards what she loved; the fusion between agriculture, wilderness, and children. Her coursework now included Tracking, Permaculture Design and Hands-On Learning. Her farming experiences include working with dwarf goats at a dairy farm and farming at the North Country School of Lake Placid, where she also taught students how to farm.

It was when Kelly and her partner decided to move to Central VT that the long-ago planted seed of Waldorf teaching began to grow and she made a connection with Orchard Valley. Kelly was hired last year as the assistant in the Farm and Forest Kindergarten. During that year, Kelly was a member of a working group which included parents, faculty and community members that set in motion the development of the On The Land program of which she now is the lead teacher.

"On The Land is a wonderful program, and each day is unique. With a season-based curriculum, things are ever evolving--which I love," Kelly says. The Main Lesson teachers have shared their block rotations and Kelly uses those to help plan the themes. In addition, she has developed a school-wide gardening curriculum where each grade will take one component--herbs, flowers, grains, the "Three sisters" (corn, squash and beans), and even a market garden. The children will have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and to delve into real experiential learning.

OVWS is also home to four sheep, two goats, and a dozen or so chickens. Kelly has plans to get more students involved with the daily care and husbandry of the animals as part of the On The Land curriculum as well. She also has plans for a student-built chicken tractor.

We are so pleased to have Kelly and the On The Land program and wish her a fruitful experience here at OVWS!