Using the farm as an Educational Work Environment (EWE), Kaima is mapping a new strategy to support the re-engagement of teens (ages 15-18) who have dropped out of school as well as young adults (ages 18-21) whose challenges continue into young adulthood.
"Youth, who might otherwise languish in traditional educational settings or are struggling to integrate into society, flourish on the farm, which can be used to teach any subject, including permaculture, business, civics, math, geometry, geography, history, ethics, and more."
Through our intensive employment program, participants learn to grow, cultivate, market, and sell the farm's products to our customers who receive fresh vegetables delivered to their homes weekly. In doing so, participants learn new skills and earn a salary, incentive which helps them take responsibility for themselves, the team, and the farm.
Work as text: Our “employment-as-education” model--which recognizes work as a value, motivator, and educational tool--asserts that every challenge presents an intrinsic opportunity to learn something new, both on a practical and personal level.
The farm as a classroom: Kaima's overarching educational goal is to help each individual find his or her own path towards rejoining society through the microcosm of the workplace - in this case, the farm.
Agriculture as a teacher: While our objective is not necessarily to train future farmers, but to connect to the young person unable to relate to mainstream educational/social frameworks, we have found farm work to be an exceptional teacher, which speaks to the power of nature in connecting to people.
Intergenerational and non-hierarchical: The farm functions according to a multi-generational structure, without conventional hierarchies. Our young farmers learn and work alongside adults (staff and volunteers) in small groups and one-on-one, with the youth sometimes taking the lead. This dynamic offers new opportunities for these kids to relate positively to adults and their environment, many for the first time in their lives.
On a practical level, Kaima helps participants learn to meet deadlines; connect action and consequence; practice self-control; respect others' boundaries and authority; and develop the skills needed to enter the workforce. Notably, with a relatively short period of time, some 80% return to some form of conventional learning frameworks.
On a personal level, participants learn to trust others and themselves; gain self-confidence; experience what it is like to be an integral part of something which yields results and has a future; and acquire the desire and ability to articulate their dreams and aspirations - something which, for most, was previously unimaginable.