The Summer Fun on the Farm program at Soule Homestead aims to help young people become well-rounded human beings, according to the education center’s director.
“It goes with our philosophy of getting the kids outdoors, getting them dirty, active,” Frank Albani, Soule’s executive director and organic vegetable farmer, said last week after returning from a busy day in the field.
“They need to get some exercise and fresh air,” Albani said. “And they get environmental education while we’re having fun. It’s better than sitting in a classroom.”
Designed for ages 5 to 10, the two-month program runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday this month. It includes games, crafts, and stories in addition to the outdoor sessions that make use of the daily farming activities on Soule Homestead and its 120-acre property. In August the program will expand to Monday through Friday.
“We will be looking, listening, and discovering nature in the summer time,” children’s educator Laurie Amberman states in her description of the program.
A family farm for decades before its purchase by the town of Middleborough, the nonprofit Soule Homestead’s property includes a market-driven organic garden, an animal barn, hay fields, grassy meadows, trails, and woodlands.
The rural education center relies on its children’s educator and volunteers to keep the summer program vital and fresh, Soule staffers said. And the farm itself is a big part of the education.
In line with the center’s mission to get young people outdoors to learn about nature while having fun, participants will hike, try some organic gardening, create nature-inspired arts and crafts in sessions such as “Printing with Nature,” “Recycled Artworks,” “Painting en plain air,” and “Fiber Arts,” and exercise both the mind and the body through interactive games. Each day’s session has a different theme.
The farm’s farm machinery, rabbits, sheep, and cow will be featured, as will plants and creatures from its natural environment such as worms, frogs and toads, flowers, birds, bees, and bugs.
According to Susan Anderson, a Soule Homestead member and the center’s administrative assistant, the children’s program draws on a corps of trained volunteers to help respond to demand. “The more kids, the more volunteers are needed,” she said.
Albani cites the highly regarded book “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv to explain the importance of outdoors time and nature education in a child’s upbringing.
“There’s a thing called ‘nature deficit disorder,’ ” Albani said. “To make a well-rounded human being you’ve got to spend time out of doors.”
In addition to nature education, summer brings outdoor acoustic music concerts to Soule Homestead. This year’s schedule of Saturday evening concerts begins July 14 with a show by Cambridge-based Lewis Garrels, preceded by a two-hour open microphone, beginning at 5 p.m. All the other shows begin at 6 p.m.
The concerts are held on the lawn, but move indoors if the weather is bad.
People are encouraged to bring chairs and their own picnic dinners, while snacks and drinks will be for sale. Concert admission is $10; $8 for seniors and students; children 12 and under are free.
The concert lineup features Zoe Lewis on July 21; Amy Petty on July 28; Pesky J. Nixon on Aug. 4; Amy Black Band, a Boston-based group that channels traditional Southern music, on Aug. 11; Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli on Aug. 18; and Barbara Phaneuf on Aug. 25.
Albani credits the center’s music committee and member and booking agent Rich Mosley with weighing stacks of applications to put together the schedule. “He’s a folk music fanatic and he gets around. He’s familiar with a lot of these musicians,” Albani said.
Albani and Anderson also sing, play guitar, and write songs. They will be the featured performers Friday night at the New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth, a nonprofit organization Anderson says is much like their own, with a children’s program, seasonal events, and an emphasis on nature.
“We’re very similar,” she said. “They do things like we do.”
And just as in Soule’s “Summer Fun on the Farm” program, youth will be served at Friday night’s concert.
One of the friends Albani will bring on stage is his 12-year-old blues-playing nephew, Paul Albani. “He’s a screaming guitar,” his uncle said.