In addition to their usual school year program, Frederick County Head Start also runs a summer camp for rising kindergartners. To fulfill summer time demands for adventure, both classes took weekly trips to Stoney Lick Farm. So, for three hours each Tuesday and Thursday, our farm was enlivened by a little yellow school bus and its passengers.
Since only our five year-olds participate in summer camp, we were able to give more freedom and responsibility to our ‘friends.’ On the first day, for example, instead of grooming the horses in the stalls as we usually do, we encouraged our brush-toting ‘friends’ to pick a horse and go greet him as he grazed in the daisy-dotted field, his natural habitat. Later in the day, we illustrated the barn floor in chalk, had pool noodle sword fights in the riding ring, and painted tee shirts. In the following weeks, we roughly followed this structure of morning animal-based activities and afternoon arts and crafts sessions.
For week two, we took turns riding all around the farm – through the woods and arboretum, around the pond, and down pine trails. Subdued by that hour of walking, our afternoon consisted of coloring goodie bags and wooden horseshoes. These were later turned into magnetic picture frames featuring a photo of each child atop our horse, Snudder.
During week three, we explored the farm, looking for animals to love. Having called in reinforcements, our usual horse and goat friends were supplemented by Lulu and Lacey (Scott’s miniature horse and mule), Oreo and Nugget (Sam and Julie’s rabbits), and Louie (a local pig). That afternoon, Joy’s story, The Tail of the Foxhound Puppies, introduced our afternoon arts and crafts project: painting the puppy pen! Our little artists brushed and blended the paints on the wooden slats of the picket fence until it was time to return to the bus.
For week four, we reenacted one of our favorite activities from the spring: exploring the farm in small groups. This time, however, we added an extra dose of fun by bringing a puppy on a leash. Each ‘friend’ took a turn holding the leash and following behind this four month old foxhound puppy whose nose led the way. In the afternoon, our arts and crafts project had a living canvas: Glampi and Geysir! Armed with finger paints and foam brushes, our ‘friends’ decorated these two horses into stunning rainbow unicorns (minus the horn).
Our final week also borrowed from our spring curriculum as we spent the day splashing in the stream. Taking advantage of the maturity and longer legs of the five year olds, we went for a longer hike to a more exciting part of the stream, complete with little waterfalls and boulders to scramble up and down. After an hour in the stream, we dried out on the bank and ate our picnic lunch. In the remaining time, we returned to the Lodge’s pavilion for some celebratory play.
Since most of the children have been coming to the farm since they started preschool at age three, these last five visits act as the closing ceremonies to the past two years of regular contact with the farm. Each evening, they can remember the day by the strata of dirt, chalk, and paint which catalog the day’s activities. But since a bath will wash all of that away, our ‘friends’ also have more concrete mementos of their time at Stoney Lick Farm in the form of their spring graduation certificates, painted tee-shirts, name tags, and framed pictures. Hopefully, a few years from now, these will spark memories of the fun they had with us on the farm!