Community Service/ 2018 Kids Out

Thirty-two children, twelve teachers and assistants, four Rotary members - and great fun for all at Old MacDonald’s Farm on KidsOut Day

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Old MacDonald Had A  Farm and on ...

...That farm were Animals, Rides, Thriftwood Children and Billericay Rotarians!

Wednesday dawned in glorious sunshine, as we welcomed thirty-two happy children from Thriftwood School, with their 12 carers and teachers to another Kids Out Day.

Another Day, Another Venue

Our destination of the last three years – “Tropical Wings” – had closed down and so we were trying out “Old MacDonald’s Farm” for the first time.  Were we nervous? Yes – Tropical Wings had been a great success with the children and carers with its mix of animals and play areas, so …. would the “Farm” be able to match that.

The answer was a resounding YES.  Thriftwood leader Kathryn Sheffle put it this way.  “We really like it – it’s smaller and more open so we can always see the children.  There’s no risk of any getting lost.  The children can all see each other, and it made for great communication between them as they called each other to try out the rides.”

Shutters Down – Panic?

It didn’t start well – when Peter and Wendy arrived at 9.45 a.m. before the Thriftwood coach to make sure everything was in place for them, the farm was closed and the shutters down.  No sign of anybody.  Panic? No! ….. well maybe a little!  But within five minutes, our liaison, Paige, had arrived and opened up the farm entrance, introducing us to our guide for the day, Michaela, and showing us the location of the features on the farm map, and our “party room” location for lunch.  “The children and carers can leave your things here during the day, it’s just for your use.  And you can put out the food ready for lunch too.”

The room seemed a little small for over 45 children and adults.  Not to worry. “We’ll make the room next door available to you too”.  And they did; and it worked well.  Great flexibility and great service.

That was the Best

The children were split into three groups of 10, 11 and 11, so that each could have their own dedicated “petting time” with the animals, while otherwise they had the freedom of the farm to wander around, try out the rides, see the animals and feed them with bags of animal food bought by us from the farm shop.  “No risk” said one of the teachers “there’s only one child who would eat the food and he’s not here today!”  Fortunately, she was right.

Peter reports on a petting session – “We all went down to the petting areas to see (and touch) the animals.”  First, the stables.  The children all lined up to stroke and pet a small Shetland pony.  They all had the chance it”. 

“That was the best” said one of the children, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  But that wasn’t the end.

Off to see the pigs – a sow and eight little spotted piglets.  The children had a lot of fun trying to feed them.  Then to see Jack, the huge tortoise, and the chance to pet him on the shell or legs, and then contrast it with petting a VERY large rabbit.

The carers were worried that it wouldn’t keep their attention, but their fears were unwarranted.  The children were enthralled.

Free Time the Best Time

What to do in the rest of the visit?  The morning was spent exploring the farm, and “trying” to feed the animals.“My favourite was the otters” said one “No, I liked the deer, I want to feed them again” said another.  “No, I really like the alpacas” said yet another.  There may not be many animals, but they certainly caught the children’s attention.
Then after lunch, more time to try out the rides.  The carousel, the ponies, the tractors, the train, and even the crazy barn ride, a new facility.
Why “crazy”?  Just ask Wendy.   “I went in it to help manage the children, but it rises six foot in the air, rotates, tips, twists and all at high speed.  I survived, but I won’t do it again!”
Not so the children, said Peter, “I saw one child go on it three times.”  He liked it so much he was calling the other children to come and have a go too.

Jam Today!

At 12.00 pm it was time for lunch, laid out by Norman and Ed in the two party rooms. The teachers ensured children all had food they would like.  “Who wants cheese, who wants ham, and who wants jam” they asked in room two – only one hand went up for jam.  Off to get lunch boxes with one jam only.  Back in the room “Can I have jam too” so back for another jam.  Re-entered the room “Can I have jam please”!!
Our thanks to Tina Joyce, of Enjoy Cakes ~ Cafe, again providing everybody with a picnic lunch which the children all wolfed down, and to Burstead Farm Shop for providing the fruit free of charge.
“What do you say to the Rotary Club for providing the food and paying for the whole day” said Kathryn to the children before they set off for the afternoon session.  “Thank You” shouted the kids in unison.

Next Year Again?

A final group photo at five past two before boarding the coach back to the Thriftwood.
Kids Out Day, 2018 was another huge success.  Kathryn Sheffle summed it all up.  “It was a fantastic day. Both pupils and staff have said it was a brilliant day. The level of pupil excitement and interaction was excellent. They really enjoyed themselves. Thank you for the attention you gave the pupils, for the photos and for your time.”
The farm staff were excellent in looking after us for the guided parts of the day and treating the children in just the right manner.