Last semester, I wrote a post on this blog about how to bring archives into the classroom as a way to enhance curricula. Last week, I put my ideas into practice.
In preparation for Deborah and Shelby’s fourth grade farm trip, I was invited to share stories of past farm trips with the class. I began by reading a description of the farm trip from Agnes DeLima’s 1942 book The Little Red School House and asked the students what they thought the author was describing. Many guessed correctly right away, but many were also surprised to hear that the book was written so long ago!
I then passed around some (very well protected) archival items, a pressed flower and an illustrated song, made by students from long ago. I had the students guess when the items were made. Using their deductive reasoning skills, they guessed the 1960s (and they were more or less correct) because of the discoloration of the paper and they brittleness of the flower. Handling actual “old things” seemed to bring home to them the idea that the farm trip was something that the school had been doing for a “long time.”
I explained that the very first farm trip was in 1925 and therefore this year’s farm trip would be the school’s 92nd. The students were very impressed by that number and were even more impressed when I told them that the farm trip used to take place during the entire month of June. Many thought this was “not fair,” that they wished they could go to the farm for a month.
I then presented a slideshow of photographs from farm trips in the 1940s and 1950s showing past students in their bunks, doing chores, and having fun. I then asked for a volunteer to read a short “essay” written by a student in the 1950’s about why he loves “June camp,” as it was called when the students went away for the entire month of June (see essay in slideshow above).
The archival photos were followed by a series of photos from last year’s farm trip. The images depicted current students also in their bunks, doing chores, and having fun. The students were thrilled to to see themselves and their friends up on the screen and shared memories of their experiences last year.
After the slideshow, I asked the students two questions:
How was the farm trip from long ago
different from your farm trip last year?
How was the farm trip from long ago
similar to your farm trip last year?
The students came up with many differences: the trip used to last a month and now it’s a week, the trip used to be in June and now it’s in October, the students used to go swimming and now they don’t (or can’t). There were many similarities as well: the students all had to clean up and do chores, they all had bunks (though now they have bunkbeds!), they all brushed their teeth, they all explored nature, and, most importantly, they all had fun.
I finished the session with a final slide, a photo of Elisabeth Irwin and students on a farm trip in the late 1920’s and a group photo from last year’s trip shown side by side. I hope that this final slide reinforced the idea that LREI students are part of a long tradition here at LREI, that they are part of its history, and that even if they are a little nervous or scared about going away for four days, that they will undoubtedly learn many things and have a wonderful time!
P.S. I received beautiful thank you notes from all the students in Deborah and Shelby’s class the following day. Here are a few highlights (copied from “Getting Ready for a Trip to Hawthorne Valley Farm!” on Deborah and Shelby’s Fourth Grade blog):
Alejandro: “It was so different then because you could go in the lake and you go for a month and it starts when you are six.”
Arlo: “One of my favorite parts of your share was the crushed flower from the LREI archives. Also, I like the cool pictures from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.”
Bo: “My two favorite parts of your share was the fact that long ago they went for a month! And the second is that they even went in kindergarten.”
Bayo: “Thank you for teaching us about archives and LREI history. One of my favorite parts of your share was when we looked at photographs from the 1920s.”
Cece: “When you showed us the picture from last year’s farm trip I remember the moment those pictures were taken.”
Cy: “I thought it was really cool how their artwork is so similar to ours…Another similarity is that both of them were awesome…I was so so so so excited for the farm after your share.”
Giselle: “I loved when you showed us the picture when Elisabeth Irwin was taking people on the farm trip.”
Hanako: “The differences are that back then they stayed a month and we only stayed three days and they went in June so they called it June camp and we go in October so I don’t know why it’s not called October camp)…I’m looking forward to getting away from the city and the construction.”
Harley: “My favorite parts were when you read about the farm trip in a book. I notice that in both farm trips the kids had fun. I can’t believe they used to go for a month.”
Henry: “Thank you so much for learning this so you can teach us about all of the farm trips….I am looking forward to seeing a chicken named Bob that my sister saw and named on the farm trip.”
Libi: “I learned that we both had to do dishes and brush our teeth.”
Macy: “My two favorite parts of your share was the song and the flower and the book about our school that was published.”
Palma: “One of my favorite parts was when you told us that there had been 91 farm trips so far.”
Saffron: “I also liked the pictures of the farm trip last year.”
Sarah: “I loved the song written by kids at the farm. I also loved the pictures of past trips. The similarities are animals, a beautiful landscape, community work, and most importantly fun!”
Sebastian: “Thank you for taking time out of your day to speak to us about the farm trips past and present…I am so excited I am going to burst into flames.”
Sonia: “Thank you so much for telling us about the evolution of the farm trips and how they’ve changed.”
Theo: “I loved the history share and the archives….I am looking forward to playing with the animals.”