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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kearsley

Support Outdoor Learning in the Oxford Hills!

May 25, 2023

Hello Friends of Roberts Farm,

If you have visited the Roberts Farm Experiential Learning classroom recently, there are many things that likely caught your attention.

You may have noticed classes of students visiting Roberts Farm. During the school year we work with all fourteen 5th grade classes in the district. We aim for 32 hours of programming for the classes and we work out a schedule so each class is able to visit the farm just about once a month, usually 8 times over the course of the school year. We currently have 230 fifth grade students visiting us on a regular basis.

Roberts Farm is a good way to clear kids' heads for a good school month!

  • Paris Elementary School Student

You may have noticed our gardens: four greenhouses and nearly two dozen raised beds full of produce. In the spring, 5th grade students help us plant seeds and prepare the gardens for the growing season. During the summer, middle and high school students in the Youth Leadership Program help maintain these gardens while leading garden tours and lessons for elementary summer school students. In the fall, 5th grade students help us harvest and taste test the vegetables that we’ve grown. Last year we sold 380 lbs of produce to the MSAD 17 food service program for use in school lunches. An additional 257 lbs of produce was donated to local food pantries, educational programs, and non-profit organizations.

[Roberts Farm] was so much fun! I loved learning about Maple Syrup and how it tasted and different challenges about Maple Syrup. We got to taste the Maple Syrup with Pancakes, and I really stepped out of my comfort zone when I was helping weeding and touching dirt! I tried my best but I’m not very strong! I loved hiking and skiing. I learned how to ski and it’s so fun learning outside. It's very different and fun! I will never forget this.

  • Hebron Station School Student

You may have noticed students hiking or cross country skiing on the trails around Roberts Farm Preserve. Physical activity programming is made possible through the Growing Healthy Kids Program, a project of Healthy Oxford Hills with support from the New Balance Foundation. This year 59 students visited Roberts Farm Preserve for the first time and 124 students cross country skied for the first time. Our classes have logged over five thousand miles during their Roberts Farm visits so far this school year.

Roberts Farm is a good use of school time because we learn in a healthier, more active way. Working in an active way and outside is better for the human body than in a room.

  • Oxford Elementary School Student

You may have also noticed fifth grade students engaged in science investigations, actively exploring the forest and gardens while taking notes in their Roberts Farm journals. Our classes collect data, identify species, model systems, and use scientific tools. All of our teachers have noticed that outdoor learning experiences spark interest and curiosity in their students. This fall, half of our students used a microscope for the first time - and none of them wanted to stop when the lesson was over!

My favorite lesson is either the Maple Syrup Challenge because it was fun to work with classmates and listen to their amazing ideas. Or the microscope because it was interesting to see objects that I see every day close up especially because I hadn’t seen through a microscope before.

  • Paris Elementary School Student

With all of this great work and learning happening at Roberts Farm, you may not have noticed that the classroom infrastructure is very outdated. The portable we are using as a classroom and a home base for our programs was intended to be temporary when it was placed on site a decade ago.

We are excited about the potential of building a new classroom at Roberts Farm Preserve. Using federal funds, MSAD 17 has the opportunity to build a multi purpose learning space that could help us improve our programs for 5th grade students and create more possibilities for other classes across the Oxford Hills School District. For the past few months, a group of stakeholders from the district and the community have been meeting with architects from Placework to develop designs for the new space.

If you would like to learn more and support this project, please consider joining us and spreading the word about these opportunities:

  • On Tuesday June 6th at 7:00 pm there will be a budget meeting and hearing in the OHCHS Forum. Prior to the budget meeting, you will be able to learn more about the project and also vote on it. Please join us if you can!

  • On Tuesday June 13th, during the district budget vote, residents of MSAD 17 will vote to approve federal funds to construct a new classroom at Roberts Farm.

We hope you will support us in expanding outdoor learning opportunities for Oxford Hills students! To learn more about our work, visit us at


The Roberts Farm Education Team

Sarah Kearsley, Roberts Farm Experiential STEM Teacher, MSAD 17

Emily Eastman, Growing Healthy Kids Educator, Healthy Oxford Hills

Sara Partridge, Growing Healthy Kids Educator, Healthy Oxford Hills

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