Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Week Down on the Farm

By: Jenna Peterson, School and Farm Programs Intern
Have you ever wondered what it would be like growing up on a farm in 1845? The Down on the Farm Week-Long Experience gave a gaggle of five to seven year-olds the chance to find out. This program ran during the last week of June, 9:00am to 12:30pm. Each day was assigned a season to show the sixteen children how the changing weather impacted farm life. We began with year-round activities, followed by fall, winter, and spring, and ending with summer.
Like any day on the farm, the kids started out every morning doing chores with the farmers. They learned how to feed the chickens, to brush the cows and oxen, to gather both chicken and duck eggs, and how silly geese act when you let them out of the barn. Their favorite activity was learning all about what it takes to be a shepherd, especially “herding” the sheep into their pen every morning. This involved lining up, yelling “Good Day!” very loudly to get the sheep ready, and then following them as they ran to their pen. They also learned about shearing and even got to take home a little piece of wool.

Once the morning chores were done, we explored our seasonal themes. On Monday, we talked about things that would have been done all year, regardless of the weather. We made fritters over the hearth, got the chance to try on some period clothing, and had a lesson on etiquette before making some stops around the village. Tuesday was all about autumn. We got to practice some harvesting and food preservation techniques, and made cobweb chasers out of broom corn. We also took a ride on the carousel and visited the Country Fair tent. On Wednesday, we focused on wintertime. We got a special ride into town on the ox cart, and stayed busy visiting the pharmacy, the schoolhouse, the blacksmith, and the print shop. Thursday was focused on the spring. The kids got to do the bean baby activity that was done as a part of Museum Quest, and they all enjoyed wearing their seed necklaces. We also practiced weeding in the Lippitt kitchen garden and fed baby animals in the Children’s Barnyard.
Finally, Friday came around and it was time for summer. It was a very full day, but a good one. We got to watch the cow being milked, see the cheese that had been made in the Lippitt House, and then make our very own butter using small glass jars. Everyone got their own jar with a little cream, and they had to shake the jar while we practiced our patriotic songs for the parade later that day. Eventually, everyone’s cream turned to butter, and we got to taste it on some bread. It was voted better than the kind you buy in the store! Once the butter was done, we took a quick nature hike up on the hill behind the museum. There were lots of things to look at, and puddles to jump over! The rest of the day was devoted to getting ready for the Down on the Farm Independence Day Parade. There were banners for every season that needed to be colored, and sashes with their names on them to be assembled. Finally, we got in line behind the steer calves and paraded around town. We ended the parade, and the camp, with one final ride on the carousel.
For me, this experience was very special. When I was the same age as these kids, I attended the day camp at Living History Farms, a museum in Iowa that is similar to The Farmers’ Museum. Now, I am a graduate student in History Museum Studies, and I have no doubt that going to that camp is what started me on this journey. Being able to work with these children this week was incredibly rewarding, and I feel like part of my life has come full circle. We were thrilled to have the camp wrap-up successfully, but also a little sad to say goodbye to the kids that we had gotten to know so well. Hopefully, they will be back to visit the museum soon!

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