A trip to the pumpkin patch
By ABBY BELDEN
ELLIS -- Failed hushed whispers mixed with the excited pattering of feet as first-graders rambled off a school bus Friday afternoon.
After each first-grader got off the bus, they grabbed their buddy, peering around their friends to get a better look at Cottage Lane Pumpkin Patch and Candles in Ellis.
"Oh, look at the bunnies," one student said, pointing in the direction of the rabbit pen.
Two teachers, a few parents and two first-grade classes from Lincoln Elementary School in Hays were guided through Cottage Lane for a field trip.
Jenny Prine, a first-grade teacher at the school, said the students had been bubbling with excitement since they walked through her classroom doors that morning.
Even though it was a fun field trip, Donna Soneson, who owns Cottage Lane with her husband, Rob, said she tries to add educational information throughout the tour.
"I try to make it a little bit educational for the kids when they come out, instead of turning them loose and letting them run," Soneson said. "We kind of give a little bit of a guided tour, and I think that works nice."
Prine said the field trip also tied in with some of the subjects she and her students were studying, such as pumpkins and life cycles.
Soneson led the first-graders to the barn, where she talked about different types of pumpkins before taking the children out to three animal pens, which had pygmy goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks.
Soneson said during pumpkin patch season, which begins late September and lasts until the end of October, Cottage Lane receives anywhere from 900 to 1,500 visitors on average during the weeks.
Soneson said this includes nursing home residents, disadvantaged residents, day cares, preschools and elementary schools.
Jody Dinkel, a first-grade teacher at the school, said the field trip was a special circumstance.
Classes no longer are able to go on out-of-town field trips, but the Cottage Lane field trip was made possible by the students' parents, who donated money for it.
Dinkel said each student paid a few dollars for the field trip, but the donations covered the rest.
The opportunity allows those who haven't been to a pumpkin patch to experience something new.
"Several of them had never been to a pumpkin patch," Prine said. "It was fun to give them that experience."
One of the main events of the afternoon was when the students were able to pick out their own pumpkin in the "pie patch" after a short hayrack ride.
Some of the student's took "pie patch" literally.
Kegan Madison chose a small pumpkin from the patch. His pumpkin's size was comparable to an orange.
Madison said he chose the pumpkin because he wanted to make pumpkin pie with his mom.
He wasn't the only one.
Kade Wenta also said he was going to make pumpkin pie with his pumpkin.
Kaden Butel had a different idea.
She said she wanted the perfect pumpkin, but the blemishes on the pumpkins she picked prevented her from finding it.
"I'm going to paint it, make it a jack-o'-lantern and then put a candle in it and put it outside on Halloween night," she said. "It's going to be a scary jack-o'-lantern."
But how scary would it be?
"Super-duper scary," she said.