Students from the Marnie Simons School in Hamburg, home to students from pre-K through eighth grade, hosted Iowa Senator Joni Ernst for a tour of the Farm School on Friday, July 27.
The day began with student presentations on the Farm School and on other programs and clubs from which students can participate and benefit.
The idea behind creating a Farm School is quite simple, and, at the same time, incredibly involved.
“One of the things we wanted to do was to take classroom concepts and teach them in a hands-on way,” said Dr. Mike Wells, superintendent of the Hamburg school.
Students are encouraged to get to work and get dirty if necessary to accomplish goals and learn life lessons that will resonate far beyond the school walls.
Dr. Wells said the community support for that idea has been tremendous.
In building up the Farm School, students learn compassion and responsibility by caring for the animals and by making sure all necessary chores were accomplished.
They learn the value of work but also of persistence by taking on tasks like building farm structures on the farm, from the fence to the actual building.
It wasn’t easy.
Dr. Wells noted that instructors and community leaders, like Dr. Fred Ashler, came in to help the students but were certain to maintain their distance from decision making.
Adults operated as sounding boards and insured safety.
But they didn’t take over the work.
“We let them do it and we let them fail,” said Dr. Wells.
As a result, the students are often doing tasks multiple times. But, when they end up getting it right, there is a sense of accomplishment that would be lost if instructors took total control, Dr Wells said.
Longer term goals for the Farm School will be to use the vegetables in  an expansive and unique school lunch program.

Dr. Wells said students in the culinary program, dubbed Iron Chef students, will craft meals from scratch and use vegetables from the Farm School before serving a family style meal at tables in a near restaurant environment.
Dr. Wells said students will be encouraged to visit during the meal and, as such, learn social skills.
The multiple-aspect sphere of  influence that begins on the Farm School ends up impacting the lives of students in ways that wouldn’t normally be envisioned.
In addition to the Farm School, students at the Friday program told Ernst about the Makerspace program that keeps up with the hands on approach established by the Farm School.
Small student groups in grades K-8 will take class in the maker space on Fridays of the school  year.
Skill areas covered will include embroidery, quilting, crafting, metal projects, woodworking, culinary arts, pottery, screen printing, creation of 3D digital images, book making, TV and recording and graphic design.
The students will get to use a CNC machine. The Computer Numerical Control Laser Cutter, or CNC, is a computerized milling machine that allows students to design and build wooden and metal signs and other projects.
Following the conclusion of Friday’s student-led program inside the school, the students took Senator Ernst on a tour of the Farm School itself.
During the tour, Ernst saw the chicken coup and other buildings including the greenhouse.
She also saw the Makerspace area, which is currently under construction with completion expected in the early part of the school year.
Ernst, who had a few more stops Friday as part of her yearly tour of Iowa’s 99 counties, said she was very impressed by the Hamburg Farm School and that it was a unique arrangement that she had not seen anywhere else in the state.
She noted the importance of students learning in a hands on environment. Ernst left the school and took a bit of Hamburg with her. The students presented several gifts they had created and personalized for the senator.