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Farm creates living history charter school

School will offer curriculum for students in sixth-12th grades

Ever wonder what a 19th-century schoolhouse would have been like? For sixth- through 12th-grade students in Estacada, the answer is available as Philip Foster Farms has developed the 'Living History Immersion Program,' which combines the schoolhouse model with modern curriculum.

Started as a partnership between the Estacada Web Academy and Philip Foster Farms, the program opened registration in the past couple of weeks with classes beginning with a minimum enrollment of 10 students.

The classes will be taught by Elaine Butler, who has worked at the farm for 15 years, including the last four as the site manager. Butler earned her teaching degree from Western Governors University and completed her student teaching at Estacada High School.

'Any student admitted will meet at the farm two days a week and they will be involved in 19th-century crafts and activities, while school will center around unit studies consistent with what the students are studying at the time,' Butler said.

The school will offer a complete curriculum for students in sixth through 12th grades, including English, social studies and math.

'We've had summer camps where kids are so enthusiastic about all there is to learn, and it has been fun to see all of the different directions we could take the learning,' Butler said. 'And we've always involved young volunteers and they have gotten a lot out of it, and I've wished we could take it further, so I went back to school and got my teaching license.'

What Butler thinks will make this school unique, however is the sense of accomplishment the students will receive.

'I think a lot of kids miss the opportunity to make a difference and to know they're needed, and this will let them know that what they do and what they study matters,' she said.

The school will be paid for like any other charter school in the district, with tuition being free aside from any field trips that are planned.

The enrollment sits at three students, but it has only been open for a few days so Butler hopes that number will grow.

'I really just love the uniqueness of our ability to make this all accessible to kids,' she said, 'because most places everything is behind glass and the goal is to teach kids not to touch things. But we're able to make it hands-on and interactive because of how the farm is set up.'

Like most secondary schools, Butler believes the education students receive will leave them well prepared for college should they decide to continue their education.

'This emphasizes a lot of setting goals, doing research and finding good sources, so there is a lot of real-world experience, lots of public speaking and lots of responsibility so I'm expecting it to be good preparation for college,' she said.

The school has a maximum enrollment of 30 students, and it will use a classroom at Eagle Creek School in addition to the space used at the farm. For more information, visit philipfosterfarm.com.