Sustainable Agriculture in Action

At Mountainside, the students run a small chicken operation, and work hard to sustain its economic viability. They sell eggs to the parents and feed the chickens scraps from their lunch boxes. They do basic accounting to track their profits and, in some months, their losses.

These chickens have enriched our lives and provided many educational opportunities for our children. They also work much better than speed bumps as they free range around the parking lot! Read more

The Benefits of Having Chickens

These chickens have enriched our lives so much since they came to our school. To begin with, the children hatched them out in their classrooms, carefully monitoring the temperature and checking the humidity of the incubators. They candled them and got to see through the shell the living, moving embryo contained within – an embryo that is similar to a human’s for a period of time. That was an amazing lesson! They got to witness the tiny chicks’ great effort to get out of the shell, and what happens if they cannot.

The children displayed tremendous empathy when one chick struggled to survive for the first 24 hours. They organized heat lamps, shavings, water, food, and shelter as the chicks grew. They built a small fenced area for them to run around in daily. It was great. Read more

It's the Climb

The great things in life never come easily. It is sort of like climbing Mount Everest – imagine the feeling you get when you reach the summit!!!

We are not there yet, of course. But we finally got some traction, and we made it over that part where the rocks under our feet kept shoving us backward instead of forward. (That would be the four different sources of financing that fell through.) But we never lost sight of our goal and were never deterred.

We got busy fundraising and getting the Mountainside name out in the community. Finding the right property to fulfill our vision took almost a year, and I cannot tell you how much property we looked at in Orlean, Hume, Marshall, and Warrenton. But I do remember arriving at 4206 Belvoir Road and instantly feeling that this was going to be the new home of Mountainside Montessori. Read more

The Chicken Man Cometh

We were honored by a visit from Harvey Ussery yesterday, widely known in these parts as the “Chicken Man” for his vast knowledge of and advocacy for the birds.

He spent more than an hour answering the children’s questions. Then he taught them to clip the wings, herd the flock, and the proper maintenance and composting of the litter in their coop. They learned that the covering on a hen’s ear matches the color of her eggs, that hens molt every fall and don’t lay at the time, and that our roosters were not nearly as aggressive as the children thought.

Now our flock is appropriately confined to a large fenced area and roosts in their coop at night. This morning, the children saw the result of their care: The first egg laid in the grass. Believe it or not, it has already been cooked and eaten!

Free Range Chickens

We already knew the school year would be unlike any other: getting ready for a move, new teachers in the classrooms, new friends to meet and families to welcome.

But then there was the crowing.

Peeking into the Elementary yard in mid morning revealed two roosters and five hens happily scavenging for bugs in the grass, up on the porch poking around, and having a stared own with Charlie the dog.

“They’re looking for people,” Miss Edel explained. “They’re very social.”

That need would soon be met with multiple daily visits from the children, feeding them, cleaning their pen, changing their water, repairing the fence.