ELIZABETHTOWN — The annual kindergarten field trip to Rulfs Orchard in Peru was not in this year’s budget, so the activity came to the children instead.
About 40 pumpkins were arranged in a makeshift patch on the playground at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School for the recent event.
Parents, grandparents, the ELCS Honor Society and the school’s Student Council assisted the youngsters in a variety of activities, such as face-painting and selecting and carving that special orange gourd.
Retired ELCS math teacher Ralph Holzhauer brought his Newfoundland dog, Rowdy, to provide wagon rides through the patch.
In addition, cider and doughnuts were served.
Like many schools, ELCS has faced budgetary constraints that have required stringent savings measures on many aspects of the school’s operations.
Field trips and other activities were among the first to be excised.
But the pumpkin-patch field trip has been a staple activity for ELCS children for many years.
“I’ve been here for 20 years, and I know it went on way before then,” said kindergarten teacher Sue Bryant.
There is educational value in the pumpkin-patch activity, she said.
“This has always been the culmination of our fall harvest unit in science. It is also part of the social-studies curriculum in which we study holidays.”
The ELCS Teachers Association donated the pumpkins, Bryant noted.
“And we appreciate Rulfs for giving us a good price on them.”
ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne praised those whose creativity and effort let the tradition continue.
“Bringing the pumpkin patch to our school building was a tremendous effort on the part of the Student Council and the staff who work with that group of young people,” he said.
“Everyone’s effort to make this event special is remarkable and shows how our school comes together.”
Not all field trips will be cut this school year, Osborne said.
“We’re looking at field trips on a case-by-case basis this year and likely beyond.
“Certainly, our budget situation has prompted a closer examination of what we call a field trip and what we authorize.
“In any normal fiscal condition, we wouldn’t need this ‘microscope.’ One of our priorities, and responsibilities, is to balance the interests of our community’s students with the community’s capacity to fund our school’s budget.”
Osborne explained the criteria in deciding which field trips will take place.
“Field trips are learning experiences that take place outside of the school building but show strong connections to essential academic skills and standards.”
The pumpkin-patch project allowed the children to benefit from that learning experience right on school grounds, however.
“It’s very encouraging to see how our Student Council and staff came together to provide a more personalized experience for these students,” Osborne said.
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