With the help of high school students from Bowers Academy, kindergarten students from across Bloomfield Hills Schools learned to groom horses, milk goats, and even do a barn dance during their “Farmer for a Day” field trip visits to Bowers School Farm. The Bowers Academy students are part of a place-based curriculum that not only provides a high school education, but also explores all aspects of farm life, including observing animal behavior, attending to animal care, and actively investigating the environment.
Seth Hansen (grade 12) said that the Bowers students were trained before they led the sessions, which were also supported by adult farm guides. “We did a teaching day where we learned everything that we needed to about milking goats and grooming ponies.”
“It was something that we had to learn,” Emmy Clements (grade 11) emphasized. “Of course, different groups of kids are going to act differently depending on the environment or how they are feeling about it because you can never predict little kids, but they are really nice to work with. The first group was a bit hesitant, and I didn’t really know what I was doing going into it. I felt the kids could sense that, and, therefore, they didn’t know what they were doing. But the second time around was a bit better because we had it down to a rhythm."
Connor Brandon (grade 12) and Liz McCurtis (grade 12) were helping in the barn with the goats and sheep. Connor said that a lot of the time in the barn involves introducing the young students to the animals. “I hope they realize that not all animals are scary,” said Connor, “especially the ones that look scary. Like, Bandit doesn’t alway look crazy friendly - he’s got the beard, he gets up and gets in your face - but he’s incredibly friendly for the most part. Tracy sits in the corner by himself, so kids might think he is in trouble or having an issue, but Tracy loves everyone. Every kid can pet him. They just need to give it a chance and try new stuff.”
Most of the Bowers students showed they were comfortable with the animals, but that included safety instructions for all the kindergarteners. “I grew up with horses,” said Dominic Schreiber (grade 11.) “I was trying to teach them to not go behind the horses, even if you know the horse really well. Horses, you can grow up with them, but you still don’t go behind them just in case they get scared. Also, just because a horse is big or they make sounds or their feet are loud when they step, they aren’t scary.”
While at each station, the Bowers students made sure to keep all of the students involved. “With some kids it was just really hard to get them to open up,” said Dominic. “I had to ask them, like, six questions. ‘How old are you? What do you want to do when you are older? I asked really any question that a little kid can take pride in. Plus, if I stand over top of them then they get scared, so I had to get all the way down. But then they started circling me!” Dominic laughed.
“I’m not tall,” Emmy agreed, “but with little kids you all of a sudden feel like a giant.You don’t want to scare them. You want them to feel comfortable because you want them to be engaged and excited about what they are going to do. You don’t want them to walk in and say, oh no, this person is two feet taller than me so I don’t want to do this.”
Maddie Clements (grade 11) added, “I think one of the funniest things about working with kids is that they have absolutely no filter. The kids are hilarious! I will ask one of them, ‘How old do you think I am?’ and they will say 200!” Hunter laughingly agreed, “I love that kids just don’t have a concept of age!”
Dr. Aileen Myer, Bowers Academy Teaching Administrator, is thrilled that the students have not only quickly assimilated into being a community, but also are excited to share the farm experience with the larger Bloomfield Hills Schools community as part of events like Farmer for a Day. “The biggest thing is having students feel connected,” said Dr. Myer. “There is the saying that teaching is the best way to learn, so I think it is really powerful. There are a lot of different safety concerns on a farm, a lot of things you have to know, and a lot of things we are conscious of. Seeing the Academy students teaching other kids makes me know they got it and know exactly what is going on. My greatest happiness is just that they are so engaged and want to be a part of this community.”
Robbie Schubiner (grade 11) feels the same. “Honestly, I have never been a get in the dirt, get my hands dirty kind of person, so this is quite a new experience for me, having a school 50 feet from the barn. It’s absolutely grown on me. The farm animals are very cool, and it’s a lot of experiences that I wouldn't get anywhere else. It feels more comfortable to come to school every day. It is a better fit and a better learning experience for me.”
For more information about Bowers Academy including future admissions opportunities for high school-aged students, including a limited number of spots for out-of-district students, visit the Bowers Academy website.