Reading, writing, arithmetic and trying to help sick chickens?

That's just part of the curriculum for a farm-based school that's coming to West Michigan beginning in the fall of 2018.

Stepping Stones Montessori School in Grand Rapids will be extending into a middle school next year, adding 7th, 8th and 9th grade. A portion of the students' education will be farm-based, making it the first of its kind in West Michigan.

"From taking care of chickens, to organic gardening, to aphids in crops, each student will get hands-on experience in farming," said Elizabeth Topliffe, who is Head of School at Stepping Stones Montessori.

River Ridge Farm in Ada graciously offered their farm as the base where this unique form of middle school education will unfold.

Every school day will be split into two parts. The first half will focus on the basics, while the second half will be exclusively working on the farm.

"We'll begin each school day with mathematics and language work, and then the afternoons will be dedicated to working on the farm in the context of things like botany with soil, farm-related problem-solving, like aphids in crops, and tending to sick chickens," said Topliffe.

A mobile classroom will be set up on the farmland each day.

"Next year will be Montessori's 35th anniversary, so to celebrate that milestone with a new program like this is really great," said Topliffe.

Stepping Stones Montessori School is currently accepting applications for enrollment. If you're interested, go to

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