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Cultivating a culture of care

The work of On the hill is underpinned by the following statement:

''To engage people in meaningful activity in service to the land, the self, community, and the future''.

Through experientially engaging in the daily running of the farm, we are cultivating within children an understanding of their interdependence with, and love for, the living world. We cultivate a culture of care within the microcosm that is the garden, kitchen, farm, and all that the children interact with. We do this in the hope that as they grow into teenagers and adults this might translate into a more responsible global consciousness.

When exploring what we mean by experiential learning it is important to ask: when does something really become knowledge? Or, when do we truly “know” something? We live in a society where we have access to infinite information, where educational attainment is often measured by how well we can regurgitate information and not necessarily by how we can apply it. This type of cognitive learning is much more useful to our growth and development when balanced with an experiential approach.

For example, all children are taught phenomena such as the carbon cycle, are successfully tested on it and yet do they really understand it?

Limited insight into this can be gained from books, lectures, and a computer screen. For some this may suffice, for others it will seem very abstract. I have often asked children and adults, ''where does that tree come from?'' and invariably the answer is incorrect. In our On The Hill Experiential Science Program we explore the carbon cycle through experiments in the garden and woodland, and through making charcoal. The latter gives a wonderful turbo-charged insight into the fossilization process, producing gas, tar, and pure carbon from wood harvested through our coppice rotation. This fascinating and dramatic large-scale science experiment exposes som