By Tara Cavanaugh
If you’re in kindergarten, it takes about forty minutes to walk the mile from Ann Arbor Open school to the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market. It takes that long not just because your legs are short, but because you want to look at the cool rocks and gather the huge leaves on the ground and catch the rain on your tongue as it falls from the sky.
AAO teacher Diane VanDorn takes her students on walks often, providing her ambling kindergarteners myriad learning opportunities. The kids learn about traffic lights and pedestrian safety. They learn about the different kinds of trees. And at the farmer’s market Wednesday, they learned about vegetables and money.
VanDorn’s class previously read the children’s book “Stone Soup” by Ann McGovern. At the farmer’s market, they went on a scavenger hunt for the different vegetables in groups so they could make “stone soup” as a class. “This is also good for learning new words, of things maybe we haven’t seen around home,” VanDorn said. “And a valuable part of this trip is learning to be better writers. So when we get back we talk about and write about what we’ve done.”
With the help of VanDorn or a grownup volunteer, some students even purchased fresh produce.
“This is a very beginning discussion but it’s still a great one for math,” VanDorn said. “It’s about money and exchange for product and figuring out how much something costs.”
The market visit was a lesson in controlled chaos, as students examined bright and gleaming vegetables, asked questions to the vendors and (mostly) stayed close to the grownup in charge of their small group.
“It’s a multi-level experience,” VanDorn said happily. “Some kids are circling pictures on the scavenger hunt. Some are buying a vegetable. Some kids are just taking it all in. But there’s something for everyone.”