Living Tree Alliance (LTA), a nonprofit education center, working farm and co-housing community in Moretown, offers local schools field trips and educational programs to teach young people to “instill a deeper experience of nature,” LTA director of programming Melanie Grubman said. She said that field trips to the farm teach respect for community and place, responsibility, community building, and using nature for reflection. LTA executive director Sephirah Oshkello added that the programs promote healthy eating, living in reciprocity with the earth and teamwork, as well as stress management by getting outside. Farmwork and cooking at LTA also impart valuable skills.
LTA has been offering field trips for pre-K to grade 12 in the fall, winter, and spring since 2017. These trips include visits to LTA’s sugarhouse, planting and harvesting, and meeting animals, as well as cooking and eating garden fresh snacks. Grubman said students enjoy meeting the sheep and chickens and collecting eggs.
A 10-MINUTE WALK
Given LTA’s proximity to Harwood Union Middle/High School (it’s a 10-minute walk through the woods), the farm and education center has a strong connection to Harwood, which brings groups of students there regularly.
“Living Tree Alliance has always made support for Harwood central to its mission,” Harwood teacher Paul Kramer said. “LTA staff have graciously volunteered countless hours of their time sitting on farm-to-school planning committees, supporting classroom garden projects, and coordinating staff community-building opportunities. But, LTA's greatest impact on our community occurs when students step onto their property for farm-based programming. Over the past six years, I have been very fortunate to visit the Living Tree property many times with many different types of classes; in my experience, students often grumble on the way over, but without fail, they always leave with a smile.
“This past fall, my Designing for Sustainability class visited as part of a summative assessment evaluating how interrelated systems on the property promote environmental well-being, economic security, and social cohesion; they left with a tangible example of sustainable development, and a full belly of freshly picked beans! Sephirah, Melanie, and Craig (Oshkello) do a great job tailoring the experience to each class's individual need, but always use the lens of regenerative agriculture to help students build self-confidence, community, and awareness of their place in the world.”
ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS
LTA also partners with the Harwood Community Learning Center to reach all kinds of learners. “Kids who don’t do well in the classroom really do well on the farm,” Sephirah Oshkello said. In addition to farmwork and educational programming, LTA also promotes free play and has a treehouse and swings for kids to explore and have fun. “We’re making space for them to be together in community,” Grubman said.
LTA has also partnered with Neck of the Woods child care program in Waitsfield, as well as Waitsfield and Moretown Elementary schools. The farm and education center also hosts non-local school groups and programs. They said they are always looking to collaborate with other schools and programs/organizations.
LTA has received a grant from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund for curriculum development and is working with teachers, including an Abenaki educator, and students from Harwood and UVM to get input on the types of educational programs students need and how best to support teachers. Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Waitsfield Telecom and Ben and Jerry’s have also supported LTA’s programs, among others.
"Living Tree hopes to bring place-based education to every student in the school district in elementary school, middle and high school so that they can develop reverence, respect and responsibility for the environment. We believe that providing a continuum of engagement that is developmentally appropriate and multi-cultural will provide the next generation with a strong foundation to be stewards of their local environment,” Sephirah Oshkello wrote in a follow-up email.
LTA is offering three farm camps this summer, including a one-week pre-K camp. Campers will learn through nature-based games, cooking and making healthy snacks, and playing and exploring outside, including swimming in the Mad River. Learn more at livingtreealliance.com.