The farmers waved goodbye to the season’s last school tour on Wednesday, as 110 kids from University Child Development School (UCDS) headed back to Seattle in a trio of big yellow school buses. The UCDS visit was the final in the farm’s biggest field trip season yet. Over 2,000 kids, from preschool- to high school-age, visited Oxbow with their classes between September and November for our educational farm tours.
The vast majority of the schools visiting the farm were pre and elementary schools participating in our Farm Adventures series. In Fall Farm Adventures, students tour the one-acre Kids’ Farm and Children’s Garden with a farmer, meeting worms and insects, identifying different farm foods, and harvesting produce from the fields.
Oxbow’s farm tours are a unique blend of content and fun. Kids sing songs on their tours and discover and ask questions as they come face-to-face with the vegetables and critters living in our fields. The farmer tour guides are more than just chaperones between stations–our experienced educators get down to kid level and encourage exploration and inquiry. At Oxbow, students have the unusual opportunity for meaningful, one-on-one interactions with real farmers. The kid to farmer ratio on our tours never exceeds 10:1.
A typical farm tour will harvest and munch its way through the Oxbow scavenger hunt, searching for, harvesting and munching on the six plant parts–roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds. Farmers allow students to lead the exploration and help answer questions and harvest along the way. In early October, kids might eat a carrot (root), sample some sour rhubarb (stem), harvest a colorful leaf of rainbow chard, harvest an apple from the orchard (fruit), and try a young scarlet runner bean (seed). Brave kids take the Oxbow challenge and try a pumpkin or nasturtium flower. All of our young visitors take home a sugar pie pumpkin at the end of their tour.
As the season wears on, the abundance subsides. Students later in October and in November witness the transformation from fall towards winter. The grapes go away, then the apples and tomatoes and peppers. Wednesday’s tour harvested leeks, pressed apple cider and made popcorn from last season’s dried ears.
About a dozen schools will welcome farmers into their classroom this winter as participants in Oxbow’s Pumpkin Package series. This three-part series includes two farm tours–the fall adventure and a return visit in the spring–as well as the winter visit to the classroom. Students observe the life cycle of the pumpkin in reverse, starting with the fruit in the fall, then learning about seeds in wintertime and finally planting a pumpkin seedling upon their return to the farm in the springtime.
The farmers would like to thank all of the teachers, students, and parent chaperones who visited the farm this fall! We hope to see you again in the springtime.
You can register for a winter farmer visit or a spring farm adventure by visiting our event calendar.