This winter, we ventured off the farm and into the head start classrooms a total of thirty nine times! With thirteen classes in Frederick County, that meant three visits per class. We do this not only for the fun and joy of seeing the colorful natural habitats of our small ‘friends,’ but also to establish ourselves as stable adults in their lives who care and show up – consistently – throughout their preschool experience. We like to brag often that by the time they go to kindergarten, each of the students have seen us a total of twenty five times!
Before we ever showed up to the classroom, we sent letters to each and every child. That’s about 250 little letters (two of which are pictured below)! Each note was filled with memories from the farm, promises of future fun in the classroom, and a message of love from the farm animals and people!
Similar to previous years, we engaged in games such as farm dress up, ‘Snudder Says,’ our ‘build-a-farm’ felt board, fishing and more. But better than that, we also brought a bit of fur with us, in the form of Tucker the dog, Nugget the rabbit, and Flint and Arrow the goats! What joy it is to interrupt an average day at school with an animal snuffling about in their classroom or outside its doors!
Our greatest smiles came from the excellent memories of our ‘friends.’ When we walked into the classroom short of Miss Joy who was home sick, for example, the kids noticed – immediately. Luis at Emmitsburg announced “Something’s missing!….Where’s Miss Joy??” And this happened again (and again) whenever one of us was missing. It was certainly remarkable that they even remembered us by name – not just saying ‘the other lady’ like they have in the past.
The memories of the farm also were noticeable when we would be interrogated upon arrival about one animal or another: “Where are the horses?” “Chickens laid the eggs?” or “How’s the baby cow??” That last one was an extra special one since it was shouted by our notoriously wild one, David, at the end of one of our sessions. He had been writhing in the teacher’s arms mid-tantrum when he stopped dead in his tracks to ask after Hope. One of my other favorite demonstrations of memory came when one little boy at the Hillcrest school stopped to announce that I smelled like the farm. How wonderful that he can remember our farm through his nose!
Whether through the ‘perfume’ of our farm clothes, the stories we read at the beginning of each session, or the actual animals we bring, our goal is to revive their love for nature and animals. We will be able to do that even better when we see them oh-so soon in the spring! We simply cannot wait!