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Among the many classrooms of Manhattan Country School, one is much bigger than the rest—about 180 acres bigger and is a working farm, located in the Catskills. Check out this new kind of curriculum.
A Diverse Heritage
MCS is a sliding-scale tuition school, which enables families to pay tuition based on their means and embraces creative learners from many cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. “Here at the farm, the children make incredible connections with each other and the natural world,” McDaniel continues. “It’s easier to build community here than in an urban setting, where everyone goes home at 3:00 p.m. Some of these kids have country houses and are totally comfortable in a rural setting; but for others the natural world is still outside their comfort zone, even after they’ve been here seventeen times.”
The new skills and perspectives the students take away from the “country campus” assume many forms. For example, McDaniel says that, after their experiences on a working farm, many kids begin to question their family’s food shopping habits, reading labels carefully and making sure that their parents know where their food is coming from—and what it really costs.
The school’s curriculum emphasizes local and global sustainability as well as decision making based upon environmental and social justice, so the kids certainly learn about being good stewards and making informed choices. But in a wired world where everyone seems to have an electronic device within arm’s reach at all times, McDaniel points out that one of the greatest benefits of time on the farm is the way it nourishes natural creativity.
“Free time is deliberately scheduled into the day, and it’s adult supervised but child directed,” he says. “Just watching kids make their own fun is an amazing experience.”