A group of Philadelphia children recently got a taste of country living.
On Wednesday, 21 Prince Hall Elementary students and nine parents, traveled from Philadelphia to Carbon County to visit their "country cousins" at Shull-David Elementary School in Lehighton. This field trip was part of the SHINE after-school program.
After arriving at Shull-David, the SHINE II students had the opportunity to reunite with the Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE students, who they met earlier this year, and get a sneak peak of a new DVD on the SHINE program. Locations that can be seen in the DVD include Harrisburg, Carbon and Schuylkill counties, and Philadelphia.
The two groups then traveled to Troxell's Produce and Pumpkin Patch in Lehighton, where they got to be farmers for a day. Students had the opportunity to milk a wooden cow, play with farm animals, launch pumpkins into a field, and go through a hay maze. They also picked a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home.
The children had a blast learning about country life and enjoyed playing with their new friends.
"It's really fun," said 9-year-old Doryann Burry, a fourth grade student at Prince Hall Elementary. "I like the animals and I love that we were able to visit."
Alexis Craigg, 10, of Prince Hall Elementary, echoed her classmate's excitement.
"You get to do a lot of stuff here like shoot a pumpkin and see the animals."
Leona Rega, assistant director of the SHINE after-school program in Carbon, explained that this is the first trip to a farm for many of the students from Philadelphia.
She noted that the students will now become pen pals.
Kellie Martin-Smith, coordinator of the SHINE II program in Philadelphia, said she was excited for her children.
"It's a pleasure to be here with our country cousins, as we call them," she said. "We have been anticipating this visit since they left."
Jeanne Miller, director of Lehigh Carbon Community College Carbon and Morgan Centers and the SHINE after-school program, was thrilled to have the students visit.
She explained that SHINE II is modeled after the Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE program.
"I feel honored that another community would implement an after-school program after us," Miller said. "It's a testament to our wonderful partners and to the county and is an awesome thing to see.
"These children are growing socially and academically," she added, noting that many of the students that participate in the program have been advancing in both their school environment and their home environment. "When you connect school and family it does nothing but good and helps the child's future."
She also said that LCCC is looking to expand the SHINE program to other parts of the Commonwealth in the near future.
Sandi Sheppeard of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the person who helped get funding for the SHINE II program, recognized Miller's efforts to help the children.
She explained the SHINE II program focuses on science projects and currently has a child to adult ratio of 7 to 1.
The SHINE II program began during the 2007-2008 school year, after Sheppeard obtained a three-year federal grant.
The Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE after-school program serves children in six public schools and four parochial schools from Carbon and Schuylkill counties. Children in the program are from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade.
The SHINE program was created to provide children with academic support, as well as build self-esteem and make stronger family bonds. The program organizes many events throughout the year as a way to teach the students necessary skills in everyday situations, as well as give them the opportunity to building lasting friendships.
The next event that the SHINE program will be hosting is "SHINE: A Victory Garden for Education," which will take place at 5 p.m., Oct. 22, at Panther Valley High School. The public is invited to attend.
During the program, parents and students will watch the premier the new Victory Garden DVD that was created by the SHINE children.