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Impressions from Farm Animal Camp

Guest post by Rozalinda Borcilă

This was our first time at Angelic Organics and the Learning Center. We live in Chicago, time is tight and so is our budget, so attending a five-day camp at the farm seemed like a stretch. Still, it was time for an adventure, or actually, it was time for two adventures in one. We decided to camp at Rock Cut State Park for six nights, and explore the Farm Animal camp during the day. Upon first arriving at the Learning Center, my daughter was, as always, a bit shy, a bit unsure of being left in an entirely new situation. When I came back to pick her up she did not want to leave. She showed me the goats and the pigs, and especially she wanted to spend more time with the chickens. I was amazed at how well she had learned to handle them, gently and firmly, with immense empathy and care; how well she seemed to know the rules of the coop, her way around and over the fences. I was also amazed at how much agency and independence the camp allowed her. At six years old, she felt a small farmer, and she was indeed treated like one. We lingered long after all the other parents and children left, and felt fully welcome to participate in the farm activities -- no one was there to hover or to rush us. My daughter had been taught the lay of the land and the proper way to care for the animals, and it seemed she was entrusted to act on that knowledge. I have no idea how it happened, but in a few short hours she was transformed.

One of the educators later told me "there is something that happens with children when they are here with the animals". I felt that from the beginning. Every day, my daughter rose with the crack of dawn, bursting with anticipation. Every night, after the campfire was out and we turned in for the night in our little tent, she would catch chickens in her sleep and speak with them.  Chicken love is a tremendous thing when you are six years old. So is feeling independent and responsible.

Every day brought a new set of experiences, new tasks and parts of the farm to explore. I will never know exactly what was the sequence of activities that took place at farm camp. Of course she told me all about each day, and everything she learned; but this was not about information, it was not learning in the sense of facts or things she could neatly string into an account. There was something heady and wild about the experience, something that cannot be narrated in a linear way, something much more than a sequence of events. Each day became re-told in delirious accounts that swirl and loop, still unfolding, still magically present a few weeks after our return to Chicago.

On the last day, at closing circle, each child received an award, a special recognition of some particular gift or effort they brought to the camp experience. I watched the children in the circle, attentive to each other, beaming at the awards -- for most courageous, or special explorer, or unafraid to get dirty, or in my daughter's case, Chicken Champion, of which she was infinitely proud.  I watched them see themselves reflected in the eyes of their teachers and peers, in a kind of mutual self-recognition, an awareness of being someone in relation to others, as an integral part of a larger collectivity -- a part of it, and yet distinct and unique in some way. There is something that happens with children who spend a week at Angelic Organics. I am so grateful we had the opportunity to discover that

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