Earlier this month the students of the middle school packed into two cars and headed west to visit a like-minded high school in the undulating farm country of Iowa – Scattergood Friends School. It was a trip we won’t soon forget.
Scattergood is a Quaker boarding school and working farm where students in grades 9-12 receive an education in the traditional core curriculum subjects, but they do a great deal more. Students grow, raise and prepare their own food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are composed of eggs, grains, vegetables and meat that are the products of their stewardship and labor on the farm. Our Chicago Friends’ School students joined them at these meals and participated in the communal work of set up, clean up, and reflection before the meal. The experience was a powerful one, and one of the results was a respect for the food that led to thoughtful consumption and clean plates all around. I have never been in a room of children eating that produced less waste.
Our students joyfully participated in the work on the farm. They mucked the stables. The herded the sheep and mended the fences. They hauled the waste to produce compost, and spread the compost in the gardens. In what might have been the biggest thrill of the trip, they executed a controlled burn on an overgrown portion of prairie that needed to become a vegetable garden within the next three weeks.
As a small school it is important for us to develop a context for how we are different from other schools, and how we are similar. As a Quaker school it is important to experience how we live our values like other Quaker organizations, and how we do it differently. This trip gave us many opportunities to put our experiences in context. The friends we made at Scattergood might be longtime friends, and I hope the experiences we had there will stay with us. I am certain that the perspectives we gained on our own school life will be ones that frame our understanding of where we are going.