Afternoons at Orchard Valley have taken on a new flavor with the addition of the On the Land program for the 2017-2018 school year. On The Land aims to connect students with their environment through the practice of growing food, exploring the forest, caring for animals, and physically engaging their bodies through games derived from the Waldorf Movement curriculum.
While the On The Land program takes on some aspects of the Movement portion of the curriculum of prior years, students in grade 1 and class 2/3 also take part in Games class twice each week. Older students have the opportunity to participate in milestone activities and events such as the Pentathlon (grade 5), Medieval Games (grade 6), the Bolton ski program (grades 6-8), and snowshoeing/cross country skiing on campus for all classes.
A common thread that weaves throughout all the grades is the practice of sit-spots. This is a unique practice to each grade and each child, but is centered on fostering a sense of awareness through observation and reflection.
Grade 1 and class 2/3 focus on Cycles. This theme is examined through forest sensory exploration, working with the animals, cooperative games, harvesting apples in the fall and sugaring in the spring.
The overarching theme for class 4/5 is Interdependence. Students will spend time looking at the relationships between plants in the garden, harvest and composting, the life of trees and fire.
Grade 6 focuses on Diversity. This is explored through wildlife tracking, animal husbandry, and an interactive study of the native populations of Vermont.
The theme for grade 8 is Systems. Students learn the art of permaculture and use their experience at Orchard Valley to build a vision for future sustainability. Through community service, students have the opportunity to engage with members of the broader community who dedicate their time to living and working in harmony with their environment.
This is just a brief glimpse into On The Land, a program which will grow and evolve alongside the students. The hope is that this time serves as an out-breath in the overall rhythm of the day and forges meaningful and lasting connection between our community and the incredible and rich landscape that surrounds us.