Post-Graduate Education Fellows - A Reflection

Through a variety of internships, apprenticeships, and fellowships, the Farm has long supported students and young professionals as they explore career paths in education, agriculture, or the environmental fields.  In particular, since 2018, we have hired 10 Postgraduate Education Fellows, who stay with us for 6 months to a year to immerse themselves in our education programs and practices (and just about any other experience on the Farm!). Their time here often shapes their future career choices in profound ways.

As a new cohort of Fellows comes on board, we thought we’d share the reflections of one of our last Fellows, Sarah Rodgers.  To most people, our Fellowship program is kind of a “hidden” piece of the Farm. But its impacts loom large, as Sarah tells.

I remember the first school program that I ever saw. Educators were laying out printed wildlife tracks so that students could create stories from them, and then they discussed the best way to show students waddler or hopper tracks by acting like the animals themselves.  I looked around wondering what I was getting into!  Now I find myself running around the woods flapping my wings like an owl with a bunch of school aged “mice” behind me, or yelling, “Deposition!” as part of a geology lesson so that students stop and crouch on the ground like “deposited” rocks.

Being a Postgraduate Education Fellow at Shelburne Farms has been a whirlwind of an experience.  I have taught school programs, worked family programs, done animal chores, worked in the garden, spent time at the dairy, and learned how to drive a tractor.  I can give a “trash talk” [explaining to students how and where to dispose of lunch waste], greet a bus, and tap a maple tree with 10 first graders.  When I first started here, standing in front of a group of students of any age, as well as their educators, to adequately describe directions, learning objectives, and facilitate a discussion would give me a pit in my stomach. Now I have more confidence in how I address those around me in all aspects of life and I am amazed in the change that I have seen in myself. 

I have been given the opportunity to better understand developmental ages, and teaching to different cultures and backgrounds, and have had experiences that have made me a more open, understanding, and willing member of society to look at the institutions that have created divides in society for years.  I will be able to bring what I have learned and seen at the farm to other places I go to continue to do that work.  

During my time at Shelburne I have also seen what it means to do work that you believe in.  Everyone at the Farm, no matter what department, enjoys the work that they are doing and does the work because it means something to them.  People are not at the farm just to pass the time.  Most are working to create change in their field or to make Shelburne a more sustainable, innovative, inclusive place.   

These six months have flown by.  It has been such a pleasure to be a member of the education team as well as an employee at the farm. 

— Sarah Rodgers
Shelburne Farms 2019 Postgraduate Education Fellow

Sarah is currently serving for a year with AmeriCorps, working to start a food pantry on a college campus in Connecticut. She is also applying to other jobs and graduate school.

Posted by Holly Brough

November 12, 2019

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