CurriculumNot what you expect...
The Learning Environment.
You will not find textbooks here, nor desks, for that matter. There are no “classes” or classrooms to speak of either. Our home and farm are the main learning centers. Our home offers a small, on-site library with computer workstations and lots of workspaces for groups as well as a large meeting area. In a classic, Montessori style, the 40 acre farm is a working laboratory and playground. The surrounding areas and their vast resources extend the learning opportunities as do our working relationships with local colleges such as VSU and VT, the USDA Small Farm Outreach Program and the Extension Offices. And, piped into the learning center, the internet offers seemingly unlimited information on topics of interest to these developing minds.
Much of the formal learning that takes place here at LOCAL STEW U will happen within the projects. Students will learn and immediately apply crucial 21st Century skills as they explore and develop their ideas. Projects include basic maths; geometry; economics; statistics; many of the sciences, including: earth, zoology, botany, life, chemistry; natural resources; conservation & stewardship; physics and more. College level research and data analysis skills are taught and reinforced throughout the student’s entire time at LoSU.
Reading & Communication.
Reading and communication are strongly emphasized in our program. Students will be given reading assignments that will be followed up with discussions, additional research where interests lead, and oral presentations. The reading program will consist of a mix of books that apply to their studies, their projects, and life, as well exposure to great literary works. Students are expected to journal daily and participate in the school blog as well. Students with dyslexia will be accommodated and worked with individually and will be included in this part of the program in a manner which builds their confidence and self-esteem.
Maths, Sciences and More…
LoSu teachers will offer instruction in these areas as project needs dictate. Skills and lessons are learned through lecture, on-line work, and one-on-one sessions, then enforced through hands-on, real-time application in projects. Teachers will often ofter some basics that will usually consist of mostly questions to get the student started. It is then, up to them to pursue the knowledge they need to perform their tasks. Our methods form a continuous loop for student experience and learning. Often, what does not seem to make sense on paper or screen, makes perfect sense as it is applied to the project work that is being done. The students have the freedom to explore concepts in real work and then reinforce them later in the on-line setting, with a group of peers or with the teachers. Additional studies will be encouraged and offered through our on-line learning partners which include Khan Academy, Sophia, and Read Theory. Teachers can monitor the progress of the students and offer additional one-on-one tutoring as needed.
Physics and chemistry are natural components to learning on a working farm which serves as an amazing lab for both. Physics studies are dependant on strong math skills and for our purposes include the study of motion, force, gravity, work, energy, harmonic motion, electrostatics, magnetism, and optics. As with physics, chemistry topics are designed to give students exposure to the many aspects of this subject through farm needs and problem solving. Relatable topics include molecular geometry, kinetics, equilibria, acid-base interactions, thermodynamics, and redox reactions, to name a few.
Students will learn the importance of understanding our government, its branches and processes through projects as well. We will not “teach” government. However, students will discover how bills are introduced and how laws are made. They will gain insight and understanding that every time the legislature meets and laws are enacted, our freedoms are impacted. Students will research and choose a bill that is introduced, take a stand on it, and be able to support their position–whether for or against. Our proximity to the Capital offers our students a unique opportunity to follow their bills through Committee, where they can choose to actively fight for or against it, and then, if it passes through Committee, onto the Floor.
Our students have access to several language arts study programs include Spanish, German, French and Japanese. As with everything we do, language studies are self-paced. Once a student begins the program, regular meetings with personal language tutors will be arranged. This helps the student get over rough spots, encourages continued work and provides accountability to the student for moving forward.
Traits and Skills.
We feel that developing good citizens and young people who can think on their own is more important than being able to demonstrate particular memorization skills by passing academic tests. Our programs and school culture foster and encourage the development of traits such as strong work ethic, curiosity, entrepreneurial thinking, initiative, adaptability, and imagination. We also work hard to develop skills they will need in college and more importantly, in life. Students learn research methods, how to analyze and use data, how to use statistical information, critical thinking and problem solving, and most importantly, how to communicate effectively. We also teach collaboration and encourage stewardship. Every student who leaves here will understand economy, resources and have developed a strong sense of stewardship.
Students at LoSU have many options for electives.
- Fine Art
- Music: available for self study (with personal instruction as needed)
- Irish Tin Whistle/Recorder
- Cooking, cheesemaking, canning
- Martial arts
- Textile arts – sewing, spinning, knitting
- SCUBA (requires additional fees)
- Horseback riding (requires additional fees)
Farming covers a very broad spectrum for specialized learning. From growing to animal husbandry to keeping things running. Students will get a taste of all components of running a farm during their first year. As they progress into their second year and beyond, they may indicate areas where they want to focus more attention. Programs offered on the farm where students can begin to focus more specifically on include:
- Welding & Machining
- Farm Mechanic (large and small engine)
- Animal husbandry which includes working with a local veterinarian.
- Equine Sciences
- Poultry keeping
- Bee Keeping
- Rabbit raising, meat & tanning
- Ag Science
- Nutrition & Health
Through a developing partnership, LoSU students will all take part in one to two week-long marine research and learning trips each year. We feel it is important to understand the global impacts of agriculture. Everything we do on the farm, impacts the watersheds and ocean in some way. Developing an awareness of the ocean, its life and connection back to us and the land is important in keeping a global perspective on human activity. We are fortunate to have ocean research field stations and learning programs in fairly close proximity.
Physical education at LoSU occurs through our outdoor program, through various recreational activities available in Virginia from kayaking, white water rafting, hiking, backpacking, spelunking and more. Our students are taught map reading and navigation skills, animal tracking, and plant identification for forage and first aid. They also learn how to travel safely outside, stay comfortable and how to travel and camp with minimal impact. These outdoor experiences occur weekly with local, single day activities and monthly for off-campus overnight excursions.
LoSU students and staff are required to take our bi-annual first aid training course taught by the folks at MEDIC SOLO out of Charlottesville. This is a two day disaster and wilderness first aid and CPR class with two year certification.
Mentoring and Internships.
After their first year at LoSU, students who have reached legal working age, have a demonstrated strong work ethic and have shown an interest in a particular career field, will be eligible to apply for our off-farm mentoring program. We will work to find folks in the student’s field of interest who will be willing to additional mentoring and guidance to the student in that topic, as well as shadowing and/or interning.
We hope to awaken a strong love for learning in our students. Some students will want to join the prominent ranks of the highly skilled, and well-paid workforce. We will work with them to gain the skills necessary for this. This includes working with them in our off-farm mentoring and internship program. . We will also help them research and find courses or trade schools in the area and work with them to find scholarships for these programs. The Mike Rowe Works Foundation is a great resource for these endeavors.
Other’s may choose a career field that requires additional schooling. Successful, sustainable farming is often about experimenting and relies heavily on the scientific method. Many students who come into our program with no desire for continuing their education often find a passion for the sciences and find themselves looking into science related fields of study. LoSU is an unaccredited school and as such, our students will require a different, but increasingly more desired, route to college. As students enter their junior year with aspirations for post-secondary education, we will begin to work with them to meet their goals for college. This will include helping them narrow down their career field and create their list of dream colleges as well as looking into the many scholarship opportunities. Our students will have already mastered the skills of research and data analysis and will feel comfortable and excited about this process. Communications skills that they have developed and fine tuned in our programs will come into play as they begin to communicate with their choice colleges to determine the best way to apply for each particular program. LoSU will mediate between the college and the student as necessary and, using the information the student gathers, guide them in developing a plan to meet those requirements. That will include preparing a portfolio, preparing for interviews, and intensive ACT/SAT test preparation if recommended by the school. We will also help the student prepared for CLEP tests to get credit for experience they have gained. We recommend the student stay in contact with their school(s) of choice throughout this process.
Only when a student has indicated their desire for college in a particular career path, will LoSU staff initiate this track with in the school. We do not feel it is in the student’s, college’s, family’s or our best interest to encourage students to attend college for the sake of attending college. It takes some students a few years to find their passions and interests and make those very adult decisions. We will, however, offer our college and skills counseling services (described above) at no charge to our graduating alumni for a period of 5 years from their graduation as long as the student can provide references indicating that they have maintained a strong work ethic.