I get a lot of questions from Chapel Hill folks who follow this blog (thank you for being such great readers!) about Irvin Learning Farm. After all, Spence’s Farm is very popular and people often ask me “What is the deal, then, with Irvin Learning Farm?” The deal is that these are very different places, both enriching the community in amazing ways.
Irvin Learning Farm, located on Triangle Land Conservancy‘s Irvin Nature Preserve of 269-acres of pasture, forest and wetlands, offers education programs for children of all ages. Kids register for sessions and are then taken through class curriculum that is interest-led, experiential, and environmentally and seasonally-based. The very unique part? All programs are held entirely outdoors.
If your child is like mine, the outdoors is ripe with learning opportunities and he is constantly intrigued with how the world works. So using the outdoors as a classroom makes sense in a lot of ways. And Irvin Learning Farm’s base-camp area includes a thriving learning garden, farm animals, a tipi and two pole barns for sheltered activities and projects. The remainder of the site has a well-developed trail system allowing access to its diverse habitats for exploration and learning.
ILF’s programs currently focus on the following groups: young children, ages 3 – 5; homeschool families with children, ages 5 – 12; families with school-age youngsters, ages 5 – 12; and high school students.
And Irvin Learning Farm involves learners from diverse backgrounds and needs. ILF’s programs can be used by parents to register their children for extracurricular enrichment. In addition, children who meet specific needs criteria are referred to ILF’s programs by local school social workers, educators, early childhood caseworkers and other community leaders. These children attend through the scholarship program. There is even a high school Eco-Crew program that meets at the site once a month on weekends throughout the school year. In addition, ILF recruits and mentors high school interns referred to them by local school organizations. Really, there is a lot happening here for students of all ages.
Regardless of which program your child is in, there are activities for them at base-camp as well as expeditions into the wild learning spaces. All of this activity is led by experienced, knowledgeable naturalists, educators and artists with a really low instructor/student ratio. I learned that ratios are 1 to 5 for preschool-aged youngsters and 1 to 6 for school-aged youngsters.
So say you don’t want to register for a session or program, but just want to visit Irvin Nature Preserve? Unfortunately, Irvin Nature Preserve, unlike many of TLC’s other preserves throughout this area, is not an ‘open’ preserve to the public. As such, all visits to the site need to be pre-arranged with Irvin Learning Farm staff or be in conjunction with scheduled programs or events. Field trips can be arranged during the year for community and school groups. Currently, however, most field trips target underserved students in our community who would otherwise not have these kinds of experiences.
Of course, if you are considering registering for a program, you can visit ILF ahead of time to see if it is the right fit for you and your family. Open Houses are scheduled seasonally. In addition, special events are planned that invite families to the site. One such event is coming up on Sunday, October 16th from 1:00 – 4:00 when Triangle Land Conservancy is hosting a Fall Festival at Irvin Nature Preserve with activities for children of all ages. To receive information about additional events, contact Wendy Banning, Irvin Learning Farm’s Director to be added to ILF’s listserve. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ILF offers year-round programming opportunities including a fall session (September – December), a winter/spring session (February – May), and a summer session (June – August) for school-age youngsters. Summer camps are week-long and thematic and include both a half-day and full-day enrollment option. Irvin Learning Farm also offers a spring intersession program in partnership with a one of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City School’s elementary schools.
Program descriptions and costs are posted on Irvin Learning Farm’s website: www.learn-outside.com/ILF. Just click on the “Fall” tab to see programs offered this fall semester which began September 6th. Openings remain for some fall programs and enrollment is ongoing until programs fill. Parents interested in learning more can visit the website for additional information.
Got more questions? Write to Irvin Learning Farm’s Director, Wendy Banning, email@example.com. You can also follow Irvin Learning Farm on Facebook for periodic updates on activities and events at the learning farm.
Irvin Learning Farm
Irvin Farm Preserve
2912B Jones Ferry Road