Kids who attend L.P. Hill Elementary School rarely get to experience life outside of Strawberry Mansion. The main reason for this is the parents’ economic status. They simply cannot afford to take their children on a trip to see various things throughout the city and its surrounding areas.
Luckily for the students, they have first-grade teacher Lacey Yoder.
Yoder has been organizing fields trip for five years now. Originally, she started off assisting a fellow teacher but took over the reigns two years ago. Before Yoder, the students’ parents would have to fund the field trips. Due to the financial situation the majority of the neighborhood is in, it forced the school to limit field trips to twice per year.
The major setback for the field trips was the cost of the transportation. For the school to use just one school bus, it would cost them nearly $200 per trip. To take eight classes on a trip, the school would need three buses, a total of $600. That cost led them to limit when and where they go on field trips.
To solve this problem, Yoder brainstormed on how she could offset the cost of transportation. She finally settled on an idea last school year—soft pretzels.
“I started selling pretzels last year, around Christmas time,” Yoder said. “I started to raise money, a good amount of money, which allows us to pay for the bus. It helps a whole lot by saving the parents money which lets us go on more field trips.”
Yoder said she wanted to sell pretzels instead of candy as pretzels are a much healthier choice, and a healthy lifestyle is encouraged at L.P Hill Elementary School.
Various organizations around the city, like the Philadelphia Zoo and Please Touch Museum, help offset the high transportation costs by offering the school free admission. However, not all organizations follow suit with complimentary tickets for students.
“I would like different museums around the area to help support Philadelphia schools,” Yoder said. “These kids need to experience life and experience things outside of this neighborhood. I would hope that different museums would offer different opportunities for kids to come for the day.”
Experiences the kids would receive from such trips would likely benefit them in both their personal life and educational life.
“Education is all encompassing,” said Camara Wilson, the vice principal at L.P. Hill Elementary School. “It’s more than just reading and math and science and social studies, it’s the entire world. So exposing kids to things they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to, to me is as important as reading and writing.”
The field trips also enhance what the children learn in the classroom as well.
“It helps connect experiences,” Yoder said. “If I’m reading a story on a little girl who goes to the ballet, it would be nice (for the students) to go experience what a ballet is or have a visual idea of what I’m talking about”
Students sometimes do not understand what is being taught in the classroom as result of never being exposed to such things and it can be frustrating, Yoder said. Her frustration drives her to push even farther with where they go on field trips.
Fundraising for the school year’s field trips started at the beginning of the year to ensure there would be enough funding for the trips ahead. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Yoder and helpers sell pretzels before and after school.
“When school first started, it was a Tuesday,” Yoder explained. “And the kids came running up to me, ‘Are there pretzels today?’ and I was like, ‘We just started today!’ So they were ready the very first day to buy a pretzel.”
Due to the success of pretzel sales, Yoder was able to put plans into motion for the very first field trip of the year, one which would be a new experience for the children at the elementary school
The last week of October, Yoder will take eight classes of students from lower grades — along with a few chaperones — to Merrymead Farm, located 20 miles outside of the city in Lansdale.
“Our fall tour is a harvest trip for the kids to come to the farm,” said Donna Quigley, whose family owns Merrymead Farm. “ They come and view the
animals we have here. We have a tent set up here where the children visit a scarecrow who tells them the story of Johnny Appleseed. They also take home a pumpkin which we call ‘Spookies.’”
The trip will give the students a new experience they would most likely never get in Strawberry Mansion, as well as a lasting memory.