A child’s smile is priceless. Watching children interact with a real live animals in a safe and comfortable setting also brings smiles to parents and teachers. One can only imagine what goes through a youngster’s mind. One on one contact opens the door to learning and teaching moments. It creates a special bond and maybe, a lifelong memory.
Farms are places where children can see domestic animals in their natural environment. It is where the livestock live, eat, sleep and are cared for. It is where they are most comfortable.
Mr. Ed’s Farm is open for school field trips. Currently it is focusing on younger children, pre-school, Head Start and kindergarten. The experience to date has involved groups of about twenty children and 10-15 adult chaperones, parents and teachers. They have been scheduled for two hour time blocks. There is a portable bathroom on site.
The itinerary has been as follows:
1. Gather in the Welcome Center for a brief orientation. The Welcome Center is a 24 by 30 converted garage that has patio windows installed in place of the overhead doors. It has a wood pellet stove for heat. There are tables and chairs to easily accommodate 30 people. There are hand washing stations and tables for snacks. There is a glass fronted box with live chicks for the children to see, touch and hold.
2. Horse drawn ride, pulled by a team of draft horses. The children and adults climb aboard a “people mover” for a 25-30 minute wagon ride around the farm.
3. Immediately upon the return, the group is escorted through the animal displays and the barns. Included on the tour are border collie dogs, turkeys, chickens, ducks, rabbits, lambs, pigs, goats, sheep, calves, a llama and draft horses. The animals are secure but accessible. Every effort is made to orient the displays and enclosures at a child’s level. Farm staff tell the children about the animals and answer questions. They converse with the students, listening to them share what they know about animals and farms. Time is allotted for child, adult and animal interaction. Whenever possible, the children are allowed and encouraged to hand feed the animals.
4. Return to the Welcome Center where they can wash their hands and have snacks. The teachers provide the snacks. Crayons and coloring pages are available as an additional activity.
This is the basic program as it exists today. Additional displays, activities and activity areas are been planned for the future.
Cost for the program is $5 per person with a minimum charge of $125. Purchase orders are accepted.
Here are some observations on the experience to date.
1. Many children and some of the parents have never visited a farm or seen live farm animals in a farm environment
2. The children are excited when they see the baby chicks. They want to “see more animals”. They ask questions and love to tell you what they know about animals. Adult listening is key to making the most of their experience.
3. Some children are afraid of the animals, others have no fear. Making sure the encounters are safe and positive is a moment by moment experience. Feedback from the adults has been very positive. Most of the enclosures are new, the barns clean looking, and the usual farm smells neutralized as much as possible.
4. Scheduling the horse drawn trip at the beginning seems to get the experience off to a good start. It’s a little bumpy, which the children seem to delight in. It also leaves time to take a relaxed tour of the barns, plenty of time to eat snacks and wind down before boarding the bus.
5.Having everyone begin and end at the Welcome Center simplifies the scheduling for the bus drop off and pick up.
Booking a field trip is easy. Contact Mr. Ed, (Ed Nelson) by phone 218-262-4686 or 218-966-1354 cell or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some photos of things you can expect to see.