“OK, who remembers when the White House was constructed?”
Several students quickly raised their hands.
“1760!” said one young man when called on.
The 5th grade students from Flint Hill School had come to the White House Farm on Friday, April 20 – a day blessed with absolutely perfect weather. It was such a pleasure to meet these kids who were so polite and so engaged in learning. They were eager to discuss their overnight trip to Jamestown and Williamsburg last year as we talked about the White House and life for the early European pioneers and their interactions with Native Americans.
During the day, the students also learned about chemical-free (“heritage gardening”) with garden coordinator Sharron Burgess with the volunteer group Sustainable Shenandoah. She spoke to them about good bugs and bad bugs, the importance of planting ‘open pollinated’ fruit and vegetable varieties from which seeds can be collected for replanting and the why, with organic gardening, it is vital to feed the soil in order to have a healthy plant.
Brittany Wolchak, education and earth science senior at James Madison University led a tract on geology, explaining how the farm is comprised of three distinct terraces, each caused by the erosion from the South Fork of the Shenandoah River – each terrace representing about 1000 years. She also demonstrated how limestone dissolves naturally over time, causing the unique karst features found on the farm such as sinkholes and karst ponds.
Local experts Diane Holsinger and Penny Warren led a session on local birds, emphasizing why it is critical to plant native trees, shrubs and flowers to provide habitat and food for our local avians. To show how variable birds are, Diane and Penny brought a box full of different types and sizes of bird houses they had collected in their bird watching forays. They even had several nests with tiny eggs, nests which had been abandoned. These instructors were ready to answer any question on birds, plants, wildflowers, butterflies or mushroom – being the well rounded naturalists they are!
We thank our instructors for providing such a wonderful spectrum of knowledge, we thank the chaperones for helping make the day go smoothly and special thanks to Jessie McKinney for handling all the logistics enabling the students to come out and spend the day with us!
We really enjoyed the students’ attentiveness and we were so impressed with how much they already knew about the subjects. We look forward to hosting next year’s Flint Hill 5th graders at the White House Farm Foundation and just maybe inspire them to study more about the outdoors and the endless potential for learning provided by nature.