GREENVILLE — The DeColores Montessori School came into existence in 1985 to meet the needs of children throughout their education in accordance with the Montessori philosophy.
The school was founded by Nancy Dean and began as a preschool serving children ages 3-6. With the support of parents, staff and the local community, it has now grown to serve 150 students, infant to 12 years of age.
Nine years ago, and in keeping with the school’s vision, the school offered a junior high farm program serving sixth-, seventh- and eight-grade students.
According to reports, Montessori’s observations and current research characterize adolescence as a critical time when they develop increasing intellectual abilities and form their personal identity. The farm naturally greets the whole adolescent by establishing a real community experience requiring meaningful work linked to the local community. The farm school provides opportunities for peer interaction, mentor relationships, community service, hands-on learning and a natural diversity of physical tasks.
Core academic curriculum at the farm school includes math, language arts, science and humanities, and additional offerings at the school include foreign language, technology, orchestra, health, physical education, life skills, art and seminar.
On the farm, everyone’s skills, abilities and personalities can find expression.
Known as the DeColores Montessori Junior High Farm School, located at 6104 Arcanum-Bears Mill Road, it is located on a renovated local farm east of Greenville, situated on approximately 20 acres a half mile south of Historic Bears Mill.
The main, 4,000-square-foot building accommodates classrooms, a library and a kitchen in a homelike atmosphere.
A large barn houses animals and equipment, and a separate workshop is furnished with appropriate tools allowing for the development of woodworking, pottery and mechanical skills.
To better serve the students and the school, the barn is now the subject of a renovation project.
“We use the barn as a teaching environment and to store farm equipment,” said Christine “Chris” Seger, business manager of the DeColores Montessori School. “As a primary teaching facility on our campus, the barn is home to our animals, crop care and ground maintenance equipment. As a focal point of our Farm School we wish to continue the barn’s great significance in our students’ and teachers’ lives. Therefore, we are planning a two-phase update to this facility and the corn crib located nearby.”
The first phase, Seger said, is the complete barn renovation to preserve the original building which includes the unique tongue and groove architecture.
“We will repair our south wall, as well as add new siding, a roof, gutters and a user-friendly garage door,” she said.”These updates will allow us to maintain the barn’s original stature while creating a safe environment for our students and the animals they care for. It will also allow us continue the distinctive work that the students are doing as they gain skills in hard work, responsibility and entrepreneurship. The barn renovation is truly our first step to a state-of-the-art facility.”
Seger said the second phase, which will add another level of sophistication to the campus is the renovation of the corn crib into a high-tech fab lab.
“The fab lab will give all our students, young and old, the opportunity to develop their passions in science, technology engineering and math (STEM),” she said. “As a farming, manufacturing and medical community, we need our young people to advance their skills to become viable community employees and future leaders. By introducing these STEM areas earlier in their educational experiences, these students are more likely to develop a passion for learning in these non-conventional careers.”
Seger went on, “DeColores is excited about what our future holds. We are taking the steps necessary to sustain and grow well into the future. As a school that serves 150 students daily from five surrounding counties, DeColores Montessori is committed to helping our children develop self-motivation, self-confidence and a love of learning. Our summer camps [on the farm] are open to all children ages 3-12. We hope you will see our passion and commitment to helping Darke County become a top-notch community through the education of our young people. It is this drive and energy that will help us reach our goal of becoming a world-class school.”
Carrie Windhoven, a teacher at the farm school, said students report for chores at 7 a.m.
“Chores are predominantly done in the morning,” she said. “All students take part in whatever needs to be done on the farm. They learn a lot about crops, gardening and deciding what they want to grow and sell. They sold peanuts one year. They do community work once a week. A lot of the time, they keep the food they harvest.”
She went on, “They [the farm students] already do problem-solving. It’s real work that really matters and I’m really responsible for.”
Windhoven said renovations are expected to start this month with Jeremy Flora doing the work.
“The kids already built a chicken coop,” she said. “All of the students take part, collectively meet and make decisions.”
Windhoven said this farm has been around the area for awhile.
“We don’t want to demolish the barn,” she said. “The integrity of the history is important on the barn.”
Teaching with Windhoven at the farm school are Jason Arnett, Melanie Miller and Brandy Winterrowd.
Those who would like to assist with the renovation projects are asked to visit www.decoloresgreenville.com and click on the iDonate link.
“You can make a donation to our farm renovations or any other DeColores program or project that interests you,” Seger said. “Or, you can call me at 937-547-1334 or by emailing me at email@example.com
The Farm School is the only agricultural school of its kind in Darke County.
Linda Moody may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.