Perfect Balance

Jed Norris ’03 has learned to adapt in his role as the early education program coordinator at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vt., since the onset of the pandemic. Some things are better; some things are more difficult. But one thing remains clear to him: “A positive aspect of the pandemic is the breaking of the pace. I hope that moving forward we can build on what we want our pace to be and not go back to what we were doing.”

Before the arrival of COVID, Norris’ job consisted of creating preschool enrichment programs, hosting school field trips, holding summer camps and offering professional development programs for teachers. Since March of last year, Shelburne Farms has halted all in-person programming, so Norris has had to pivot his role at the farm. He now focuses on teaching farm to early education programming. The three things they focus on in their teaching are classroom, cafeteria and community. His classes, which would normally be in person and include solely Vermont educators, are now held virtually and include a handful of out-of-state participants as well.

One might say that Norris, who has been at the farm for seven years, has found the perfect balance between his interests. Growing up on a dairy farm, Norris has always loved Vermont’s farmland. This position at Sherburne Farms allows him to use his child development degree while enjoying the great outdoors. He said, “It is a combination of my personal interest combined with my professional interests.”

Norris often jokes that he gets paid to play with a purpose. “For me, it’s rewarding to see people connect with the natural world whether it’s building a fort, catching a salamander or going to eat kale straight from the garden,” he said.

His favorite activity that is offered to the children (when they are in person) is sledding. In the summer he enjoys making fires and finding meals to cook over them. He said the farm offers a lot of learning opportunities and creates positive memories for generations of people who have visited. He said when parents drop off their children for the programs, they often mention they used to visit the farm as children. The one thing that many of them remember is the butter-making class, which is taught to this day.

Norris said one of his favorite things about his job is seeing the children come off the bus for a program. He said, “When kids come to the farm for a field trip, I get to be the best part of their week. That’s a great feeling.”

Norris lives in Vermont with his wife, Erika Sagendorf Norris ’02 and their two sons, Dylan, age 9, and Milo, age 6.