This summer our farm hosted our second annual kids’ camp, run by Marie Bencze of Rad Kids.
For three weeks this summer we had twelve kids running around the farm learning how to take care of chickens and feed cows, how to make yogurt and compost, and where to find different plants and wildlife.
The kids, mostly aged 5-11, had a blast. Camp coordinator Marie Bencze organized a full slate of farm and nature activities each day, teaching the kids both farm skills and respect for the land and each other.
It was fascinating to see how kids try to understand and internalize the rules of new situations. They were especially interested in how to interact with different animals, such as the cows. Every day the kids would see the dairy cows being moved around by our border collie, Meg.
Meg was an endless source of excitement for the kids, who showered her with attention—sometimes to the detriment of Meg’s herding duties.
The kids wanted to learn all of Meg’s different herding commands. And they wanted to act them out. One group of kids made up their own herding game, in which one child would play the dog, and the others would play a herd of cows. Then they herd each other from activity to activity.
They also came to understand and respect different parts of farm work, including the work done by our dog Meg. After we asked them—I think a couple of times—not to distract Meg by calling her while she was herding, the kids devised and acted out an elaborate skit.
In the skit, a “herding dog” (played by a kid, of course) was distracted from its work by a group of yelling children. As a result, in this morality play, one of the “cows” (a kid) was eaten by a “coyote” (another kid).
The chickens, however, were probably the favourite animals to visit. Chickens are perfectly sized livestock for children; small enough to pick up, and big enough to be interesting.
Feeding chickens was the most poultry popular activity, especially once the kids realized the chickens would eat over-ripe cucumbers out of their hands. Collecting eggs was a close second.
The success of the camp was due to the energy and diverse skill sets of those involved. Our photographer-in-residence, Andree Thorpe, documented events and lent each of the kids a tiny digital camera to use themselves. Each of the farmers here dedicated some of their time to different activities—from dairy farming to soil science—and many volunteers and guest presenters joined us as well.
Rad Kids showed me how children can have a very fun and educational time on a farm, and we’ll look forward to hosting them again next year.
You can learn more about the camp at radkidsblog.wordpress.com.
Aric McBay is a farmer and author based on Howe Island.