Strawberry Mansion: An Inner-city School’s Trip to the Farm

The students listened as they were told the tale of Johnny Appleseed.]

When I first agreed to go on a field trip to Merrymead Farm in Lansdale with L.P. Hill Elementary School, I was concerned. The thought of helping chaperone 80 first- through third-graders was a little intimidating.

Several scenarios played out in my head. What if I lost a kid I was supposed to be watching? What if a kid gets hurt under my watch? What if a kid gets sick while on the hayride? All these scenarios ended differently, some good and some bad. I just hoped none of them would happen no matter how they ended.

The kids were very anxious before boarding the bus outside of the school. They wanted to make sure their friends would be sitting close to them and that their lunches were all tucked away. When they got on the bus, they compared what they had for lunch and traded different snacks with one another.

One thing I noticed is that when you’re at least 15 years older than the kids, they put you on some sort of pedestal. All the boys want to be your best friend while the girls act a little shy.

On the bus, the boys flocked to the back and invited me to sit with them. I had to sit with one of the teachers because the kids couldn’t decide who should sit with me.

They talked about the farm animals and the hayride, something they never had a chance to experience. They were fascinated by the outside surroundings on the ride there, even though they had no idea where we were.

One thing that drew most of their attention was my camera. It was large and heavy; a type of camera they were not used to seeing. They couldn’t quite believe that the photo I snapped of them could be seen seconds later on the camera screen.

“Can you make me famous?” first-grader Jasir said with a dead serious look.

Two first-graders peered out at the scenes on the hayride during their field trip to Merrymead Farm.

When the bus arrived at the farm, the students grabbed their jackets and headed for the exit.

The first stop on the farm tour was the cornstalk maze. It was clearly designed for children since the entrance was so small, but all adults managed to sneak underneath the archway and explored the maze just like the kids.

The students quickly ran through the maze and just as quickly they would get caught at a dead end. Instead of giving up, the students backtracked and found their way. They found that if they worked together, the maze would be much easier to navigate through.

“That was fun,” a young boy said. “Let’s do it again.”

So a small group of students ran into the maze again and knew exactly where they were going. They made it out in what had to be record time.

“Wilbur! Wake up, Wilbur,” said a boy, who thought the over-sized sleeping pig was actually Wilbur from the popular E.B. White novel, Charlotte’s Web. “What’s wrong with Wilbur?”

“He’s just tired and needs some rest,” a chaperone said.

The boy looked a little disappointed but quickly moved on to the next animal pen.

A student looked at the animals at Merrymead Farm.

In the week leading up to the field trip, first- grade teacher Lacey Yoder had taught her kids about a variety of animals. That way her students would be able to apply what they learned in class to the real live things on the trip.

“What do the cows say?” Yoder asked a group of her students.

“Moooo,” they replied in unison.

Before the students loaded on to the hayride, they took a detour to the storytelling tent to hear the tale of Johnny Appleseed from Merrymead’s scarecrow impersonator. The majority of the students had never heard the story of Johnny Appleseed, so they were all very intrigued by the story.

It made me think of my childhood and how I had first heard the story when I was around their age. I first heard the story in a similar educational setting and I remember being just as engaged as the kids were.

The students listened as they were told the tale of Johnny Appleseed.

One girl volunteered to act out the story of Johnny Appleseed. At first, she seemed to be nervous to be in front of all her peers. However, by the end she had the biggest smile on her face as she walked back to her seat with applause from her classmates.

“Finally, some peace and quiet,” Yoder said, and all of the chaperones agreed –myself included, as the hayride began.

It was a pleasant change of pace compared to the rest of the day. Most of the kids sat quietly and looked out at the various scenes of the farm. Some kids played with the hay, something they would regret later on when they would have to get it out of their clothes and shoes.

“Wow, this is so pretty,” first-grader Tahair said as he peered out over the lake.

The students never get to experience nature in such a way because of where they live and the surroundings they’re in. When they do get to experience something like the farm, they take full advantage of it by admiring what’s in front of them.

The students got to pick out a pumpkin before they headed home.

Before the field trip was over and the students loaded on to the bus, Merrymead Farm made sure every boy and girl got to take home a miniature pumpkin. The kids were ecstatic over this because it was something for them to take home as a souvenir.

On the bus ride home, the students were not as rambunctious as they were on the way to the farm. Some kids even took a quick nap on the ride back. I was exhausted and relieved that one of my fears had come true, thankfully.

I left the trip with an appreciation for what the kids had learned and even made some new friends.

“Mr. C, will you be my best friend?” Tahair asked me before I left.

“Sure,” I said.

“Does this mean you’re coming on our next field trip, too?” he replied.

With that question, it made me think of all the possible things that could go wrong at the Camden Aquarium–the school’s next field trip destination. Despite that, I think I might just join them.

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