Living School: The Farm as a Pedagogical Resource

What connects us, as human beings, to a flower, a carrot, a cow or an earthworm? In the Norwegian project Levande Skule (Living School) children explore their relationship to nature in a very direct way, throughout the seasons.
Each week, they spend one day at a farm near to their school, participating in all the prevailing tasks. By tasting, smelling, touching, seeing and listening, they open their senses to their natural surroundings. The farm proves to be a unique classroom.
This documentary gives a colourful impression of Living School and is a source of inspiration to teachers, pupils, parents and farmers.


Length: 20 minutes
Producer: Ole Bernt Frøshaug, Visions AS 2001
Translation: Ceciel Verheij
Contact by e-mail: erling.krogh(at)umb.no, linda.jolly(at)gmail.com




Lars Krantz:

One day nine skinheads show up at our garden. Big guys, broken teeth, piercings, bald heads, dressed in black. I'm scared to death. ‘Can I help you?’ I ask. ‘Do you have a saw?’ asks the tallest guy. He takes the saw, walks to the garden and starts to saw down flowers. It is allowed to pick flowers here in our garden, but he saws down flowers, giant sunflowers, 15 feet tall, one after the other. They pick them up and take them home. Quite all right. Nice guys! Great. Next Saturday they come back, all nine of them. This time they have brought some more friends. This time we had the feeling: ‘Ok, nice to have you here, do you need a saw maybe?’ The same skinhead comes up
to me and says: ‘I took some sunflowers home and gave them to my mother. She was so damned happy!’ Imagine: this guy, nearly two meters tall, broken teeth. He looked like a wild animal.
He had picked flowers for his mother and it made her happy! No kidding!
To be touched by flowers is very human.

In fact the major question is not what makes leaves and apples fall down to the ground, but how they get up there in the tree. That’s the real question!


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

We have the rhubarb group, the birch leaf group, the nettle group, the peas group and the marigold-group. Is that correct? Then we are ready for working.”


Children:

Here are many worms!

This one is mine!

Here's a small worm.”

Here is a big one!
They're useful for the soil. They can also be used for fishing. Or you can play with them.


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

As a farmer I experience what it is to be part of 'the big play,’ that you're in close connection with life and death. One experiences the changes of the seasons. That has a positive impact on me.
I hope the pupils will also experience this.


Children:

I don't like worms.

Me neither.”


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

What a nice soup you have made!

Everything they do here at the farm can afterwards at school be related to their theory lessons. But then they have quite a different perspective, because they have been outside and used their senses first. Everything you learn by doing, while using your senses makes you approach the theory in a different way.

Do you remember what distance there should be between the rows, when sawing linseed?
 

Child:

10 centimetres.


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

10 centimetres, exactly. It should be about the width of a foot. We started our project on flax last year. It's a very interesting project. We follow the whole process of sowing linseed all the way knitting and weaving with a homespun thread.
By going through the whole process from beginning to end, all school subjects are dealt with: biology, mathematics, local history, Norwegian, essay writing, and not in the least, handicraft. You learn by doing yourself.


Child:

I put the plants in a little hole, so when it starts to rain, the water will be gathered there.
The small plants need a lot of water.


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

Don’t push down the tip too much, so the scythe slides. Very good!


Lars Krantz:

Imagine a flower and I say: ‘O, how beautiful you are! I'm instantly moved by it, the flower affects me. The flower is no longer a distinct object outside of me, but it has become somehow part of me. I can take one step further: I can expand my relation to this flower, by examining its colour, shape, scent. Or I can pick the flower. That's what I, as a grower, think is important: To pick flowers. That way you really relate to flowers, by picking flowers and making a nice bouquet.
And then I suddenly discover: I can even use them in the salad, those orange marigold leaves, Calendula. You can use them as garniture. And you might notice they even have a special taste, so then yet another dimension is added to this relation which only expands and expands, and expands, and expands. Of course you might wonder: What's the use of having a relationship to a tiny flower? But that's not the point. It's about the basic principle: to nurture relationships to your surroundings. Because one realizes: being a human, this is of great importance to me.


Finn Iversen:

Chicken are quite nervous. They are very alert, like all birds. They are very much aware off what's happening around them. Cows, however, are more turned inwards. Like those cows over there, they just go around eating and ruminating by themselves. You can have a look yourself. You can go around and observe the animals, but don't fuss around with each other.


Girl:

I'm trying to make a lying cow, but it doesn't work so well. We each had to select an animal and make sketches of it. And then we had to sculpture the animal in clay.
This is my cow!


Finn Iversen:

Cows produce most manure of all animals at my farm. They eat tremendous amounts, so therefore they also produce much manure. I need a lot of manure at my farm. So that's probably the main reason for raising cows, since they provide fertilizer for my crops.
Why do you think farmers raise animals?

Boy:

Well, someone has to produce milk and provide us with food. You can also buy GMO-food, like hamburgers. It tastes the same, and it is just as healthy.


Finn Iversen:

Few people still know where their daily food comes from, regardless if they grow up in town or on the countryside. Most have no idea how their food is being produced.

It’s important when you slaughter to try not to be empathetic. That way you only transmit your own feelings to the animal. And your pain is of no help to the animal.
Try to be as realistic as possible and remind yourself that the point is that the slaughter should be done as neatly as possible.
Please be quiet now!


Boy:

That was fast! I think it's nice to be at the farm, I really do! Mondays aren't such great days
at school anyway so then I'd rather be at the farm!
I like it here at the farm.
Anyway, it's much better than being at school, because here you learn much more.
You can’t learn much about sheep by only reading about them in books.


Girls:

We have harvested potatoes and onions and done some weeding. Others have been doing other things, I don't know exactly what they did. Before I went at school in Hurum. In early summer we were here at the farm with our class ten times. We planted everything then and now we are going to harvest it and check the yield.

How do you like this one?

In the afternoon we do biology-assignments or we draw and paint things. In the mornings we do some work.


Boy:

It's sticky! Yak.


Lars Krantz:

As Goethe says in Faust: ‘We bear two souls inside us.’ The one which we nowadays value most, is the one which brings us progress, through technology, through information technology.
Great things, all very important, surfing on the internet, feeling detached from the earth. There are no limits, worldwide communication. Tremendously important! But there is also this other side, which makes me as human experience that I'm part of a larger context, standing with both feet on the ground and experiencing the life pulse, that there simply is a reason for existence. That is just as important
at least for my spiritual wellbeing, to feel that I exist, as a person, as part of a larger community.
And this side - that I know by now - is nurtured through contact with nature.

Valborg Kløve-Graue:

If you hold it like this, and pull it up carefully. Don't pull too hard, otherwise it might break. Today the pupils work with the harvesting part of the project. We started in May by sowing linseed. And what we harvest now is oil flax. This will be used for making wreathe and bouquets that the children will sell at the Christmas Fair to earn some money.
This is part of a larger project. We follow the process of line seed to the final product. For this we use fibre flax. It resembles oil flax, though this plant grows larger, so its fibres are longer, which makes it very suitable for spinning.

Just throw everything in here.

What's so nice about the garden is that you can just go out and use the garden as a store-room.
You just take what you need. You pick something here and there, you can always make something nice out of it.


Boy:

Can you please taste our tea?


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

Yes, of course. You should add quite a bit of sugar to get the right taste.


Boy:

It smells good!


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

Does it have the scent of lemon?


Boy:

Yes.


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

Does it smell a bit like toothpaste, because of the mint?


Boy:

This is delicious!


Valborg Kløve-Graue:

Please put your cup a bit closer, so I can pour...

We used to spin a lot at home during the war. That's how I learned it. As Ingegerd tells herself, spinning is a natural thing for her. She has done it so often when she was young. Now it has become like a natural thing for her.
Nowadays we gather most knowledge by reading, not by practising ourselves.
Spinning requires a certain quietness and that’s what I would like children to experience.
The farm is the perfect setting for 'learning by doing'.
Here you can practice traditional crafts and skills and experience what it means to work with different materials.

Lars Krantz:

I'll never forget this young girl who came up to me one time. I was busy sowing salad, lots of salad. She asked me: ‘What's a seed, Lasse?’ So I start to elaborate on these complex protein molecules, with their genetic structure, which results in similar offspring. ‘I don’t understand anything,’ she said.
‘What in fact is a seed?’ she insisted. ‘Well, go take a look over there in those jars with seeds.
Take the lid off and take a look at them.’ Then she paused an instant and continued:
‘Lasse, how can I exist, if I wasn't there before?’ That question I didn't even try to answer.
What a question! You can reflect on that one your whole life.



Lars Krantz, gardener and philosopher
Rosendals Trädgård, Stockholm

Valborg Kløve-Graue, Voss, farmer
The children of group 1 to 8
visit her farm one day per week

Finn Iversen, Hurum, farmer
Every Monday grade 10 is on his farm

Translation by Ceciel Verheij