“Look! Is that a baby bat?” shouted a pint-sized camper as a yellow butterfly fluttered past her at Fairfield Farm. For some of the girls camping out at Fairfield Farm last week, something as commonplace as a butterfly became a novel learning experience
For the first time this year, Hotchkiss partnered with Miss Abbie's Kids, a Bronx youth-development nonprofit, which held a weeklong summer sleep away club for girls ages 6-11. The girls slept overnight in platform tents under the watchful eyes of program counselors and Shanequa M. Charles, executive director and founder of Miss Abbie’s Kids. During the morning, the group learned about sustainability and farming practices and in the afternoon they attended reading sessions, workshops on money matters, visual art, and theater/improv, and went swimming.
Fairfield Farm Manager Elllie Youngblood and Director of Athletic Performance and Fitness Brody Quinn initiated the partnership with Miss Abbie’s Kids through NeverBeCaged, a Bronx umbrella organization that works with various nonprofits to educate and elevate youth in an effort to reduce incarceration.
Miss Abbie’s Kids seeks to build healthier more sustainable culture among Bronx children of color through real world learning opportunities. For the seven girls who camped out, the experience was much more than an outdoor adventure away from home. It was the first time some of them had ever swum, dug their hands into the soil, or squashed a bug.
“We killed bugs this morning!” piped six-year-old Onya, who earlier that morning was helping Youngblood eliminate an infestation potato beetles by plucking them off the leaves squishing them between her fingers.
Youngblood taught the girls to transplant and harvest plants, knowledge about farm animals, and other agricultural practices. “The only thing they didn't do is weed!” she said.
Charles said young people in the Bronx face overcrowded learning environments. The farm program was designed to be small and personalized. One important goal of the program is for the girls to develop a sisterhood so they can pass on the knowledge they’ve learned.
“It is important to develop advocacy and leadership skills at an early age so that our girls also understand how they can make real legislative change in the world to help people and how to become producers instead of consumers, Charles said. Learn more about the program: www.missabbieskids.org