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Cool Schools: Buchanan School Farm teaches unique lesson in agriculture

BUCHANAN, Mich. –

From homework to harvest, elementary students in Buchanan Community Schools are getting out of the classroom and onto the farm.

Students are picking, shucking and grinding up corn during corn harvest on the Buchanan School Farm.

“You see a different side of the kid out here than you might see in a classroom,” said Mark Nixon, the Buchanan School Farm coordinator.

Corn harvesting is just one of the many activities to do on the farm.

“They make apple cider, they grow pumpkins, they make scarecrows,” said Moccasin Elementary Third-grade Teacher Kris Rettig.  “It’s just a really neat experience for the kids and as you can tell they’re very excited.”

The school district bought the 100-acre farm in 1972 to build a new middle school. The leftover land is now being used as a learning tool.

Mark Nixon, now retired principal of Moccasin elementary, has overseen the farm for about 30 years.

 “I think it gives our kids who really need hands on stuff an opportunity to do some hands on things that give them some background in the agricultural history of our area,” said Nixon.

The program is educating about the area’s roots in farm life while also contributing to current curriculum.

"I always throw some history in and we usually throw some math and some science into what they're doing," said Nixon. "It dovetails into their math and science programs in their classrooms."

“It ties in with science because in third grade we’re learning about plants and the parts of plants,” said Rettig. “And it ties in with social studies because we have antique equipment that was produced before there was electricity so they’re getting a connection to the older equipment that used to be used in every farm in the area.”

Rettig says she’s thankful to have a resource like this just blocks away from the school.

“It’s a rare thing to have a school farm,” she said. “There are only two school farms in the state of Michigan and we’re lucky to have one right here in our community.”

It’s not only giving students a chance to get hands-on, it’s also for the most part self-sustainable.

“We do have a local farmer who is contracted to plant and harvest the crops here. The money from those crops funds pretty much everything we do out here. There’s very little school money going into this activity,” said Nixon.

But Nixon says the best part is seeing a space cultivate learning in a different way.

“You might have the kid who can’t sit still or fidgets and does all those kinds of things but out here they can blossom. This is right up their alley,” he said. “If you want them to shell corn they’d sit there and shell corn all day long until they got blisters because it’s unique and it’s different.”

He’s watched as generations come through this barn. And although the seasons are sure to change, those here say they hope this farm never does.

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