Sep 23, 2013
Hotchkiss, Among Nation's Top Private Schools, Even Has a Farm to Teach Sustainability
(page 3 of 3)
Mr. Hahn said that the school also interacts with area farmers such as Allen Cockerline of Salisbury, who operates Whippoorwill Farm and who leases a portion of Fairfield Farm to raise his grass-fed beef. “We are trying to figure out ways to have the kids engage with other people,” Mr. Hahn said. “We have a nice partnership with Allen, and we like the symbolism of our students working right next to a local farmer’s cows.”
The reality of a beef cow’s ultimate destiny is not lost on the young people. Indeed, the life and death of farm animals is underscored in a number of ways. The school raises its own pigs and chickens, which provide meat for the students. “We have about 200 chickens; not enough to feed the whole school,” Mr. Hahn said. “But the students have the opportunity to kill a chicken. It’s voluntary, but if they choose, they can either watch of be part of it.”
The issue of killing animals for human consumption is not taken lightly, however, and is incorporated into discussions of philosophy and ethics. “Everyone in the school experiences the farm, but some go deeper than others,” he said. “Some of the classes are elective.”
Mr. Hahn, who guides the program, has been at Hotchkiss since 2009. In making the announcement of his appointment, Hotchkiss said, “In the context of our world of growing environmental degradation, [this program] is an absolutely essential part of our educational mission.”
According to the school’s announcement, Mr. Hahn earned a B.A. in environmental studies from the University of Vermont and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He worked at The Lawrenceville School for four years, including service as the Aldo Leopold Fellow. In that post he was charged with looking at and extending the school’s sustainable systems across all aspects of its operations, including curriculum and instructional leadership, physical plant and infrastructure, and residential life.
In 2006 he launched his own company, Stone Bridge Sustainability + Education, providing consulting services to schools in the areas of sustainability education and strategic planning. In this capacity he worked with numerous schools throughout the country. He served as the lead consultant to the National Association of Independent Schools Decade for Sustainability Leadership Project and helped to found the Independent School Adventure Network.
The assistant head of school, director of environmental initiatives post was a new position at the school. His task is to infuse awareness of environmental issues and sustainable living into all areas of the curriculum. He explores alternative sources and uses of energy as part of the process of making Hotchkiss a carbon-neutral school and oversees the development of the farm.
“One thing we are proud of is that we don’t turn kids into radicals,” said Mr. Hahn. “They come out with a balanced, nuanced perspective. They know it is not all or nothing. They know we can’t feed 1,000 people out of our fields, but they also know that our biomass project cut our carbon footprint in half and avoided $900,000 in fuel costs.”