Beaver Run’s Children’s Village is, in essence, an exploratory experience. As students reach adolescence, they are allowed the space to “play” with different roles, different ways of being a person. Do they want to be a student in classroom? Do they want to be an actor, artist, or musician? Do they want to be farmer or a gardener? All these roles are open to them and mentors and teachers assist them in locating their interests and exploring them freely. During this time, it is the teachers, the adults surrounding the child which work to maintain a space that will allow the child freedom to explore different roles.
Students’ transition from adolescence to adulthood marks an important moment where the individual takes an active role in approaching the world. Students who have come from the K-12 program in Beaver Run or other secondary educational programs have experienced the school life, where they participate in classroom or household activities with the assistance of teachers or adult mentors. In the Transition Program at Beaver Farm, students are recognized as emerging adults and encouraged to accept the responsibility of adulthood. This same spirit of exploration is continued, but students are given the responsibility of helping teachers and adults maintain the space. Students are no longer just students, but members of a thriving community. Members of the Beaver Farm community rely on students and staff alike to contribute to the ongoing work necessary in maintaining a garden, a farm, a craft workshop, a kitchen, or even the land itself. Students are made aware that work is now a responsibility and they see the fruit of their work every day.
Previous to coming to the Transition Program, I worked in Camphill Copake in Upstate New York and witnessed first-hand the benefit of giving young adults to pleasure of realizing that their work is valued by others, that their work helps other people in their community. If you were to visit Camphill Copake, you would see a thriving village that is not run by a few volunteers for the benefit of developmentally-disabled adults; rather, you would see a community that is run by all for the benefit of all. It is this type of learning, this type of community ethic that Beaver Farm seeks to engender in the young men and women who come.
At the Transition Program, students raise cattle, grow food, cook meals, and create beautiful crafts as part of a team. The difference made in a student’s life when he or she works in Beaver Farm can often be striking. In just the year that I have been in the Transition Program, I have seen a confidence, maturity and pride bloom in students who have realized that they not only had a voice in a community, but that their voice mattered and made a difference.
By Nick Hilbourn