March 13, 2013 2:00 AM
"Real differences between micro- and macroorganisms become clear when students have their hands buried in the earth, says Ryan King, a student-teacher from Southern Oregon University.
"Is a worm a macro- or a microorganism?" King asks, after one of his students from Ruch Elementary School announces she's hit a writhing mother lode of organic recyclers.
The 10 seventh- and eighth-graders are on one of their regular field trips to Sanctuary One at Double Oak Farm — a nonprofit care farm in the Applegate Valley.
The worms are macroorganisms, busily creating beneficial microorganisms that will help grow the chard, lettuce and spinach being planted in the vegetable beds Tuesday afternoon, say King's students.
Partnering with the care farm is part of a larger plan to market Ruch School as a campus with a place-based learning approach that connects students with nature and uses community connections to improve programs for students, King says.
"We have totally changed our curriculum," he says. "And we have a lot of pride in this model. We've flattened the walls down and got the kids out in the community."
Getting students outside of the school environment and into the community has benefitted everyone, King says.
Della Merrill, Sanctuary One general manager, agrees. Every couple of weeks, the students visit the farm for a series of lessons in applied science. The symbiotic nature of the students' help and the care farm's healing and educational influence is a powerful mix, Merrill says."
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