In the 1940s, young students at Poughkeepsie Day School would go the local train yards to learn about steam locomotives, an important innovation of that era. Since then, the progressive school has maintained its legacy of getting students out into the world to learn and engage with the local community. As modern life has embraced new technologies and advancements, the school has seen a renewed interest in the natural world and farming. These days, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten visit nearby Sprout Creek Farm regularly as part of class programming.
This direct connection to farm life happened recently as their Pre-K/Kindergarten class hatched a dozen chicks at school. The kids experienced the thrill of candling fertilized eggs, watching life form over three weeks, and then witnessing the baby chicks slowly break free from their shells. All of it happened right in their classroom.
The students had previously visited Sprout Creek Farm and had the chance to observe chickens and speak with the farming staff about the process of incubating eggs. When the chicks were about 10 days old, everything came full circle when the class brought them to Sprout Creek Farm to live. Through their experiences and discoveries at the farm, students gain a deeper understanding of the world.
As part of this process, the Pre-K/Kindergarten class welcomed in older students and adults into the classroom to visit the chicks. The students were able to answer questions about the chicks and share the story of how the eggs were carefully incubated and how the chicks finally emerged.
Young Poughkeepsie Day School students visit Sprout Creek Farm often, pondering questions such as, “How do farms help people?” and “How do they do their jobs?” The children meet all the animals who live at the farm and they follow the growing cycle of the vegetable gardens through the seasons. The experiences at the farm place special emphasis on cooperative skills, environmental awareness, experiential learning, and understanding of the natural cycles inherent in farm life.
Back in the classroom, they write and create artwork drawing on their experiences, allowing them to expand their understanding by asking and answering questions using books and other learning materials.
The school is set on a 33-acre wooded campus within minutes of the City of Poughkeepsie as well as rural farms such as Sprout Creek. And while the region is challenged by pockets of rural and urban poverty, it also has an influx of new residents and start-ups. It’s this juxtaposition that allows the school to embrace studies around farm life or eel sampling in the Hudson River and also take older students into Poughkeepsie to connect with nonprofit organizations like Hudson River Housing and Habitat for Humanity.
Over the years, the field trips and areas of student interest have evolved and expanded. Poughkeepsie Day is enriched by complex landscapes: ecosystems that are physical—both farmed and wild—and also cultural and intellectual opportunities that continue to enrich residents and attract new families. The school is steadfast in its approach to engaging students in active, hands-on learning in the classroom and out in the field.
Poughkeepsie Day School is a progressive school in the Hudson Valley region serving 210 students, from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Their steadfast commitment to providing an education based on active learning and experience has made them a leading choice for education in the Hudson Valley for more than eighty years. For more information or to schedule a tour, give them a call at (845) 462-7600 or visit Poughkeepsieday.org.