class trips

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#3)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy!

11th Grade Parzival Trip

by Angela Nusbaum, High School English Teacher

On a cold, rainy, Sunday night, our trusty Green Meadow buses fought their way through the harsh January rains. It was dark on our arrival at the Camphill Special School’s Beaver Run campus. The 11th grade unloaded the buses valiantly, perhaps inspired by the knightly fearlessness and constancy of the heroes in Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s rich tale of a Grail quest. Already halfway through the book, the students were deep into an experience which begged the question—among many questions—“How can I come to know the one standing in front of me?” With few expectations, the students were eager both to meet the children with special needs living at Beaver Run, and, through this intensive week, to meet each other newly. The weather echoed and enforced the class’s transition through the week. While the torrential rains made it hard to see past one’s own nose to begin with, by Thursday the sun lit up the rolling Pennsylvania distances, and gilded the fields and houses in which we had witnessed so much joy and steady love. The houses seemed woven together not just by their shared schedules, but by their shared goals and the wakeful practice of recognizing the highest humanity in each member of the community. Our concentrated morning conversations in the carpeted library or the vaulted, gloriously lit “Rainbow Hall” informed and were informed by the long, joyful exhale of activities the rest of the day. The trip was filled with quiet moments, outdoor work, conversations ready to happen, and a sounding chord of being open and awake to others. As students took up their own breaking through boundaries, the words of Karl Konig, founder of the Camphill movement felt true:

“There is a knighthood of the twenty-first century, whose riders do not ride through the darkness of physical forests, as of old, but through the forest of darkened minds.”

The following are words from the journals students kept during the course, writing on impressions of the people, the book and their experience.

            “ Her constant stream of jokes ever fail to make me laugh, and if life were to weigh me down, she would be the one to lighten my load. Going on 20, She bears the resilience and positivity of a child..”    

            “I was upset to leave because I enjoyed talking to him, but we both knew that we would see each other for lunch, as he asked me, ‘Corey, you need to leave? Aw. Will you come back?’ To which I replied, “Of course! I’ll be back for lunch!” He was ecstatic, as was I.”

            “The trip was incredible in many ways, but but most of all, it taught me how compassionate and caring my classmates can be…”

            “I have never seen an institution similar to this, and have already gained a massive admiration for it. Witnessing the intensive care and interaction that the aids and house parents give to the children shows the dedication of the school. The happiness of the children reflects the environment that they live in.”

            “Like Gawan, the creator of Camphill and all the caretakers and teachers dedicated their lives to asking questions. ‘What is hurting you? How can I help?’ Gawan, the asker of questions, would sacrifice his life for the sake of others.”

            “I hope that this coming summer I will have the opportunity to return to Beaver Run and volunteer for a few weeks. In this way I hope to create stronger relationships with the incredible children, and perhaps have a greater appreciation for the abilities that I have been blessed with.”

            “Answers are an odd thing. We yearn for them, are impatient for them…sorrow for them. It seems, though, that once we have our answers, we only have more questions.”

            “Parzival learns from trial and error, sometimes, which we are strongly able to experience when entering into someone else’s house. Just as when Parzival intrudes on Jeschute, we might rudely interrupt or cross over boundaries into someone else’s space, because we do not know better.”

            “We experienced and witnessed many moments that connect to the book: the ability and inability to be observant and aware (as seen in Gawan and Parzival); the innocence, honest and purity in each child; the sensitivity, love, and above all, the bravery these children hold.”

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#1)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy!

Third Grade Farm Trip – A Parent’s Perspective

By MaryJoe Walikainen

My daughter Ava began attending Green Meadow in third grade.  As if learning through play, free time outside every day, and helping out at nearby Duryea farm on Fridays weren't enough fun, she also got to spend 5 days and 4 nights with her classmates living on Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY.

While Ava spoke about the farm trip frequently, she began the official countdown three weeks prior.  As part of the preparation for her trip, she received a packing list from her teacher.  She brought it home and got right to work.  She compiled all the items she’d need.  One check mark went next to the items she already had on the list and put in a pile.  A star went next to the few items she didn’t have and needed to get.  She placed yet another mark next to each item on the list after she labeled it with her name.  Then, as the departure day got closer and excitement built, she made a fresh packing list (the other one had too many marks on it) and checked off each item as she placed it in the duffle bag. The duffle bag got packed and repacked several times before leaving.  I marveled at her independence as she took care of all her trip preparations herself.  While packing for a trip may on the surface seem trivial, it indicates to me my changing role as she increases her self-reliance and responsibility.  

Before she left on the farm trip she got a schedule outlining the activities and chores she would be able to do at the farm.  She wondered what milking the cows would feel like.  She questioned if she would really need to clean out the barn or, if she could skip that part.  She said she wanted to get up early every day (instead of just one day as indicated on the schedule) to feed the animals.  She expressed her excitement about being able to collect the eggs every day and the opportunity to learn how to make fresh butter.  

While Ava had spent time away from home before, she was always with a member of her family. This trip would be her first experience without any family.  Regardless, when the morning came to leave for the trip, Ava boarded the bus forgetting to say goodbye.  I entered the bus to give my goodbye and found her already situated with her friends anxiously awaiting the journey.  Before the trip she was able to write down a couple preferences for who she would want to bunk with while at the farm.  Her teacher reassured her that at least one of her preferences would be honored. This provided a sense of comfort for Ava knowing that at least one of her closer friends would be with her.  At the farm, she ended up with several of her friends bunking near her.  And, she came to find through various activities at the farm that she got to know some other classmates better. This trip provided her first major experience that expanded her sense of place and belonging beyond her immediate family to include the larger class community. 

One evening, Ava was particularly tired and was ready to go to bed before the rest of her classmates were ready.  She struggled with deciding to either continue on with the group activities or go off to bed by herself.  She ended up going to bed before the others.  I believe this reinforced her trust in herself to listen to what she needs and to speak her needs even if it is difficult and unpopular.   I think this experience nurtured trust in herself and was an important experience for her as she continues to navigate and explore her relationship with herself and others.   

When she returned home she spoke about catching a countless number of frogs at the pond, riding a horse, going for a hike and rolling down a grassy hill, splashing around in a creek, and her rekindled love of eating sweet potatoes as well as some of the chores she got to do.  She loved being able to cook soup for everyone one day.  She explained that on another day she had the much less exciting job of serving and cleaning up after dinner.  Then, I could feel her sense of confidence strengthening as she reported that milking the cows turned out to be fairly easy and that she was able to clean out the barn really well and take care of the smelly manure without a problem.  While she didn’t articulate it directly, I know she understood through experience that some tasks are easier and more enjoyable than others and that what each person does individually helps everyone.  

Being at the farm reinforced in a tangible way the lessons she had been learning all year long at school by providing positive experiences which challenged her with new tasks and opportunities.  The trip provided many fertile opportunities for her to grow her confidence, independence, and sense of belonging—all in an adventurous manner, in a unique setting, among wholeheartedly supportive friends and teachers.