Picking apples, making lip balm and shoveling llama poop for school

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For most kids, the start of a school year is exciting. But for those who are new to a school, it can be nerve-wracking. The upper classmen are intimidating with their make-up, their dyed hair, their low-cut shirts and their baggy pants. “Tall kids, short kids, so many kids!” as Dr. Seuss might’ve said.

But most kids don’t go on a trip to get to know people in their grade two weeks into the school year. I went to a farm for four days for the A2 Experience, which included 9th and 10th graders, at my school.

Okay, it might be a little crazy for a school to send students on a trip this early in the school year, right? Well, my school is Great River School, a public charter junior high and high school that follows the Montessori educational philosophy. As a result, my school functions a little differently than other schools. So we are allowed to work differently than students in other schools. (To find out more about the Montessori approach, click here.)

So what did we actually do on the trip?

We worked. We were given two different tasks to do on the farm. One of the things was to help around the farm and the other was to sell the products to make money for the farm. We helped by painting the barns, making paths with wood chips, picking apples, making sure the trees were safe from frost and animals, feeding animals and shoveling llama or chicken poop.

We learned what it’s like to produce and market our work. We harvested corn, pumpkins, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes, among other things. Some of us made lip balm and lotions. Others canned tomatoes and made pickles. And some got to go to the barn to do wood work such as making cutting boards. Then we sold all these things and other stuff at our yearly school fundraiser and at the farmers market.

With some of the produce that we gathered, we made food for our meals, which I helped make. I also helped pick apples for the cider we had on the last night at the mask party or the “masquerade ball,” as the teachers called it.

Gosh those teachers are the oddest bunch ever. On the first day, they sang a song for us! After dinner on one of the nights, we played Ultimate Frisbee against them. They talk to us not just like we’re students, but like we’re a friend or someone special who deserves attention.

Before you start thinking that this was all just fun and games, let me tell you that this trip was hard. First, it was COLD! We were shivering and huddling to keep warm. Okay, there were some warm buildings to go to, so we didn’t suffer that much. Second, we had to sleep in tents, with three to four people in a tent. It was good because it kept us warm, but bad because we were crammed in with people and all our stuff. Third, we had to get up early. And fourth, we couldn’t take a shower, unless we had shoveled the llama poop from the pens.

Actually, it was really fun. I made friends, had a good laugh, got to look at the stars, had a talent show and made masks for the masquerade ball on the last night. It felt really good to use my hands to make things and to be a leader to the 9th graders (I am a 10th grader).

Plus, this was an adventure. One girl had an asthma attack and others got sick either from the cold or just getting germs in other ways (I am not going to say how). We sympathized with them, and our community took good care of them so they are okay.

I am still a bit nervous to start this school year with new classes, but it isn’t so bad knowing everyone is going through the same thing. All of us are different. Even all the readers of this blog are unique, one reader from the next. But when working together, each unique skill put together can make anything work.

I have a few things to look forward to this year. My favorite classes are English (Communications), World History and Geography. I recently switched electives so I could take Chemistry, which I find fascinating. Math is a bit goofy right now, but I am sure it will work out. And I’m also writing for ThreeSixty Journalism this year. All in all, I think it will be a good year, and I wish you all the same! :)

- Isaura Greene, ThreeSixty Journalism teen reporter

Isaura Greene
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