How would you like to grow vegetables, plant flowers and collect eggs as part of your school day? These are just a few of the many hands-on activities for students at American Farm School just outside Thessaloniki, Greece, where a working farm produces milk, yogurt, Omega 3 eggs, turkey, wine and more. In this living laboratory, children learn by doing by engaging in experiential learning and applied research.
“The truly unique campus of the American Farm School allows our students to witness nature’s cycles first hand, while actively engaging in activities related to the environment and its conservation,” said Nadia Grigoriadou, STEM Academy Coordinator for American Farm School. “The School’s Educational Farm, ‘Discovery Garden.’ and ample outdoor spaces make this process a one-of-a-kind learning experience.”
Founded by American educator Dr. John Henry House and his wife Susan Adeline in 1904, American Farm School strives to educate the “whole individual: the head, the hands, the heart.” Attended mainly by Greek children, the elementary school is part of the Thessaloniki Schools of Experiential Learning.
Students at the school’s STEM Academy, an extracurricular program conducted in English, recently completed Level Up Village’s Global Scientists – a course that explores water chemistry, water conservation, water pollution and filtration.
“Participating in the global community further motivates our students to enhance their English speaking skills while carrying out exciting STEM challenges and experiments,” said Nadia.
When she introduced the Level Up Village program to students, one asked how it would be possible to conduct the same experiment when they are so far away from their U.S. partners.
“She didn’t realize how easy it would be for us to communicate and share so much with a school across the continent,” said Nadia.
Throughout the course, students used LUV’s global communication platform to exchange video letters with their American peers to learn more about each other, relate what they were learning and share ideas on how to address global water issues.
Nadia explained that the water pollution experiment got them thinking about ways to improve the living standards of countries affected by this issue.
“That’s why we went on a field trip to a wetland nearby and observed the wildlife,” said Nadia. “Unfortunately, pollution had gotten its way into the waters of the beautiful lagoon. So, we collected some ‘dirty’ water and went back to our lab to build a water filter. We experimented a lot and felt like we could really make a difference.”
Nadia said students learned that fresh water is not something that can be taken for granted and that without clean water you can’t grow food, you can’t stay healthy, you can’t stay in school and you can’t keep working.
“Their interaction with their American peers and the projects they’ve carried out have helped them deepen their knowledge of the environmental issues concerning water and realize how important it is to take action. We created a poster about the ways in which we can conserve water and decided to never let anyone litter again,” said Nadia.
“The experiments we’ve conducted, combined with our STEM Academy curriculum have sharpened our observation skills and gotten us one step further into the scientific method,” added Nadia.
Level Up Village VP of Global Operations Sean Canavan visited American Farm School in October of 2016 to launch the partnership.
“Seeing what American Farm School does for its students and the learning opportunities the school creates was inspirational. Even the youngest students feel they are a part of the working farm at the center of the school. The way AFS engages students in experiential learning is exactly what we try to do in our Level Up Village courses,” said Sean. “American Farm School’s leaders including Principal Anastasio Barmpas, Nadia Grigoriadou, and Eleni Voukloutzi have inspired their students in a way you rarely see.”
Level Up Village’s partnership with American Farm School brings LUV CEO Amy McCooe full circle.
“My father, Phillip Foote, taught English at American Farm School before I was born and he brought over groups of American students for a summer exchange and immersion in Greek culture,” said Amy. “His early understanding, in 1970, of the necessity of global collaboration and learning helped spark my passion for global education.”
American Farm School is one of several international schools that have recently joined Level Up Village’s growing global network of partners. Schutz American in Egypt, Forvardas in Lithuania and Bromsgrove International in Bangkok have also begun offering LUV courses.
“Each of these schools takes a very different approach, but what makes them great LUV partner schools is how they innovate, create and iterate new programs to serve their students,” added Sean.