Girl Scout Silver Award Project Completed

16112499_720216651486595_6226846218092050066_oWe would like to congratulate Kendall Hovius on completing her Silver Award Project. The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn. The basis of their project is to find an issue within their community that she can help solve in a sustainable way. Kendall was a homeschool student at Fernbrook at one time and wanted to add something that would help Fernbrook’s ever growing population of chickens on the farm. After a few conversations we settled on the need of a mobile chicken coop.

The mobile chicken coop will be the new home for our 6 new chicks that we get every spring. Once they have spent some time in the brooder and their feathers have all grown in they will be moved to our mobile coop. The mobile coop will be in our Children’s Garden. The chickens will help the garden by fertilizing the ground, controlling the insect population that could harm crops, and trim the grass. The mobility of the coop is a key feature, allowing for us to move the chickens throughout different plots where they can dig and scratch at the soil to prepare it for seed planting.

We are very proud of the job that Kendall did on the coop. She spent almost 50 hours working on planning, researching designs, asking for donations for materials, collecting materials, constructing, painting, assembling, and delivery it to Fernbrook!

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If you or anyone you know has a child that is working towards their Eagle Scout Project, Silver Award Project, or Gold Award Project have them contact Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center.

 

Why I love camp at Fernbrook Farms!

There are so many reasons to love camp at Fernbrook Farms but my favorite part is Melinda Fish Sillyseeing the pure joy emanating from a child when they are engaged with nature.  And I love that it can take on so many different forms at so many different ages.  Maybe it is the 4 year old getting to jump in a mud puddle for the first time.  Maybe it is the 7 year old catching their first praying mantis.  Maybe it is the 10 year old discovering a new bend in the creek.  Maybe it is the 13 year old overjoyed with being able to share their nature knowledge with the younger campers.  Whatever the cause for the joy is, the gratification displayed by the camper is palpable.

Another reason I love seeing this joy radiating from campers is that it is not a contrived joy.  In today’s world, so many kids are constantly holding something electronic, or running through a bouncy house, or finding some other way to have a manufactured stimulus.  It is gratifying to know that a child’s innocent natural curiosities can bring such joy to them and nature can be the stimulus. iPhone-2015.04.06-14.26.05.832

Finally, another reason I love camp at Fernbrook Farms is that for so many generations, nature has been the stimulus for a child’s joy.  As Richard Louv says in Last Child in the Woods, “Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems like a quaint artifact.”  I am happy to say that at Fernbrook Farms, our camp allows that free, natural play in nature that used to be the norm for kids and that this kind of play still brings joy to a child’s face like it has for so many generations.

Families continue to enjoy celebrating birthday parties at Fernbrook all year round!

Birthday parties at Fernbrook Farms are now bigger and better than ever!  With the pond open for fishing most of the year, forest trails laden with hidden treasures, and friendly barn animals waiting to be pet, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

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This winter has been our busiest winter for Birthday Parties.  With the addition of a new heated indoor classroom, we can accommodate more kids and more activities.  Our Kerney Barn is an excellent venue for celebrating with a fully functional kitchen and space for up to 60 people comfortably.

If you’re looking for a different and fun way to celebrate your child’s birthday check out our facility at Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center.  Call the farm or e-mail our birthday party coordinator (kim@fernbrookfarms.com) to discuss how we can make your next birthday one the kids will never forget!

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The Horizon Foundation funds another successful year of programs for Trenton City Schools

We would like to extend a huge THANK YOU  to the Horizon Foundation for approving a grant which made it possible to continue bringing inner city kids from Trenton NJ to Fernbrook Farms to engage in hands on learning and connect with nature.  We do all that we can to bring students here who would otherwise not have the opportunity to visit a farm and feel the soft soil under their shoes as they pick tomatoes ripe off the vine for tasting.

Thanks to Horizons generosity, Fernbrook has hosted both Mott Elementary School and Paul Robeson Elementary School during the Fall and Spring semesters since 2014.  The students have continued to look forward to our classroom visits and visiting the farm in both fourth and fifth grade!  Together Horizon, Fernbrook Farms, and the Trenton School District are creating experiences that these kids can count on year after year.

It gives me great pride to be a teacher at Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center!  There is no greater joy than watching a child take their first steps through the forest, or pull a cricket out of their net in the meadow to marvel at the beauty and color of this interesting insect.  Often when Trenton School kids come to Fernbrook, they are experiencing these things for the first time and we are so grateful to offer them that experience.

Our Growing Community of Homeschoolers

20150205_145211   Thank you to our growing number of homeschool families that have continued to support our programs over the years. I have heard from a lot of you regarding the parent’s and child’s love of our environmental education programs here at Fernbrook Farms
Environmental Education Center. Some of those testimonials include “…we are thankful for the dedicated teachers who work with the students to not only have fun, but learn about science in action”, “the variety of topics truly kept my son’s interest week to week, and he was also looking forward to another new adventure”, and lastly “the hands-on, experiential lessons really engages my children in the topic which helps them retain the information for the weekly review assignment”.

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   Our homeschool families come from all over the state of New Jersey, a few from Pennsylvania, and even a family from the Bronx, NY. They all have the same thing in common which is to give their child(ren) the opportunity to create memorable, educational experiences while connecting with their natural world. The demand for our programs increased so much that this past Fall we offered our classes on Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday afternoons, Thursday mornings, and Thursday afternoons for all age groups Pre-K/Kindergarten (3-5), Lower Level (6-11) and Upper Level (12-14).

  Currently we are accepting registrations for our 8-week Winter Semester which starts January 17th/18th/19. If winter isn’t your favorite season, our Spring Semester is schedule to start April 4th/5th/6th so keep an eye out for the registration to open the beginning of March!20160518_155644

Ms. Jenna’s Top 5 Young Stewards Summer 2014 Adventures

The Young Stewards Summer Camp focuses on local agriculture, ecology, and community. Themed weeks and trips allow the campers to discover the natural diversity of New Jersey. Every week of the summer offers amazing adventures, unique experiences, and TONS of FUN, but there are always those special moments that I remember for the weeks, months, and years following the end of the season.

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June 23rd-27th, 2014 Agriculture Exploration Week20140625_110255

  • We visited Tassot Apiary at Buzzing Acres Farm in Milford, NJ. Staff and campers had an up-close and personal beekeeping lesson, tasted various types of honey, and learned how their innovative display hive worked!

 

 


-          July 28th- Aug. 1st, 2014 – Shenandoah River 4-day Canoe/Camping Trip

  • Throughout the 4-day/3-night canoe trip, Ms.  Jenna and Mr. Andrew along IMG_2394with our three brave campers had the experience of a lifetime! We witnessed so much wildlife as we paddled 40 miles of the Shenandoah River from Luray, VA to Front Royal, VA. We gasped as we viewed thousands and thousands of turtles that inhabited the river from painted turtles to red-eared slider turtles.

-          Aug. 4th-8th, 2014 – Coastal Ecology Week

  • One of the four individual day trips that we took during the Coastal Ecology OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAweek included a kayaking trip of Cape May’s back bays with Aqua Trails and the Nature Center of Cape May. The coastal birds that we identified and witnessed in their natural environment were definitely the highlight of the trip. We en10549987_10152684573227929_8963084473602723434_ocountered a osprey that clearly had a tracking band on his ankle, and he let us paddle right up along side of him as we perched on a dock post!

 

-          Aug. 11th-15th, 2015- Appalachian Trail 4-day Hiking/Camping Trip

  • Throughout 4 days on the Appalachian trail through New Jersey the 6 campers IMG_2567and 2 staff members hiked about  20 miles of the from Culvers Gap at Route 206 to Millbrook Village. On Thursday the group hiked approximately 4 miles to and from Buttermilk Falls and then hiked 3 miles to our third campsite. The Buttermilk Falls experience was breath taking!

-          Aug. 18th-22nd- Watersheds and Wetlands Week

  • This week consisted of gaining an understanding of New Jersey’s watersheds & wetland systems. The20140819_114006 group traveled from the coastal wetlands to the 10005849_10152849957022929_4037418921473684263_ofreshwater watersheds to experience the importance that watersheds have to humans, plants and animals. One of the day trips included a water quality assessment of the D & R Canal State Park where we took macroinvertebrate samples, which included a hellgrammite!

Here at Fernbrook we may be thinking about how to keep the farm animals warm through the winter, but our thoughts are already on plans for Summer Camp 2015! Keep an eye out for the registration form and get excited for the adventures to come!

Ms. Jenna

* Click on the Weekly Theme headings to look at more photos from our adventures via our Facebook Page!

2014 Fall Pre-K/Kindergarten & Homeschool Semester

20140918_101029This Fall Semester was the Education Center’s most successful semester EVER! We had 169 students between the ages of 3-14 years old participate in the Fall Semester. That is the highest attendance rate we have had since we started the program back in 2005 (oldest record that was recovered in our archives). Ms. Jenna would like to thank all of the students, parents, and even grandparents that encourage the children to participate in the program and value the connections that the students are making to their natural world. Our program would not continue to grow unless we had such loyal parents and students. Keep an  eye out for Fall Semester pictures on our Facebook page, “Fernbrook Farms Environmental Education Center

Our next semester is our Fall-Winter Bridge Program, for children age 3-11, which starts December 3rd/4th and ends Dec. 17th/18th. It runs for 3-weeks and is a great way to bridge the gap between our Fall and Winter Semesters, as well as try out our classes to see if you are interested in pursuing participation in future programs. Registration is available on our website. Our Winter 8-week  Semester starts January 21st/22nd and ends March 11th/12th. Registration for the Winter Semester will start around December 22nd.  Our 8-week Spring Semester will begin April 1st/2nd and ends May 20th/21st. Registration information is always distributed via Constant Contact emails and Facebook.

Letter From Farmer ‘Q’

Dear Friends,

For the past few months we have been working on a strategic plan.  What do we want Fernbrook’s education programs to look like three to five years from now and how do we get there?  As part of the process, we have visited other environmental education centers in New England and the mid-atlantic states.  I can say with a certain amount of pride that we compare very well with many of these centers which have been in business for twenty-five or thirty years.  We may not have their endowment dollars but we offer diverse quality programs to many children and families.  It also turns out that we have some unique programming, in particular, of all the centers we visited, none of these offered the breadth or complexity of our homeschool programs.

Looking to the future, we will need to expand our physical plant, more classroom space and indoor recreation space for those rainy and frigid days.  The animal barn is a big part of that and we hope to be adding to that space in the near future.

Planning and improving all takes money.  That’s something we’ll be working on.  But, for now, I can say we are all very proud of what we do.  We can ‘hold our heads up’ against the best that are out there and we are pleased that you are a part of Fernbrook.

May you and your family have a happy and blessed holiday season and we look forward to serving you better in the New Year.

Sincerely,

Farmer ‘Q’

Fall Break Camp–a Ton of Fall Fun!

Fall Break Camp

We are always pleased when November’s Fall Break Camp brings back some of our summer campers for fall fun!  During this year’s NJEA convention we once again offered our Fall Break Camp– and doubled the fun by adding a second day!  On November 6th, campers braved some rain during a hike, built survival shelters, visited the animals and dried off playing board games with hot cocoa in the cottage.  November 7th brought better weather and great activities including some fall arts & crafts, “Fernbrook Diner: Fall Edition”, the ever-popular “7 Wonders of Fernbrook” hike, and our traditional Friday campfire.

Sad you missed out (or already missing Fernbrook again)???  Have no fear!  Winter Camp days on Martin Luther King Day & Presidents’ Day weekend will be here before you know it (and Spring Break Camp is coming your way in early April).  Join us!

What do we really learn at Summer Camp?

Since our summer camp is part of an Environmental Education Center (EEC), I sometimes get asked: “What do kids learn at Fernbrook Farms Summer Camp?”  There are many simple answers to that question such as what a chicken feels like when you hold it, how to pick a cucumber, how to identify a Black Walnut Tree, and so many more answers that you would find at most any EEC.  But, there are many more immeasurable IMG_4460.jpg‘things’ that kids learn at Fernbrook that are related to their social and emotional growth and development.  They learn the importance of working with a group.  They learn how to communicate with their friends.  They learn the value in listening to others.  They learn compassion for each other and the environment.  They learn to be resilient in a diversity of settings.  They learn to build relationships with peers and adults.  They learn to be independent.  They learn to be self-confident.

You might ask how they learn all these things at Fernbrook but our recipe is really quite simple.  Engage kids with nature and surround them with highly qualified staff that can give them the tools and guidance at just the right moment to maximize your child’s growth and development.

For example, take a popular activity of ours: boat making in the creek.  In this activity, they are often asked to build a boat that can float down the creek, maybe a race is involved, maybe they have to transport something on their boat.  Either with a group or on their own, they have to first build the boat so that it can float.  Often times, the first attempt doesn’t work soIMG_1557 they learn to deal with the frustration of this failure and work together through communication, developing a plan, and trying different ideas.  Regardless of how ‘successful’ the boat floats, your child has learned many life skills that they can use in school, with family, and for the rest of their lives.  Not to mention, they’ve also learned about floating abilities of a variety of objects, water currents, and a little engineering.

And, they had a lot of fun doing so!!