MARYSVILLE — For the special needs students at Marshall Elementary, the Rotary Club of Marysville’s pumpkin patch at the Plant Farm in Smokey Point was just a bit too far afield, so the Marysville Rotary again teamed up with staff and parents from Marshall Elementary and the Marysville Cooperative Education Program to bring the pumpkin patch to those kids.
For close to five hours on Thursday, Oct. 24, special education students ranging from preschool to fifth-grade classes ventured out into the soccer fields of Marshall Elementary to pick out their own small pumpkins, out of a field of about 75 pumpkins that were light enough for even the littlest of hands to lift.
Kelli Marble is both a developmental preschool teacher at Marshall Elementary and the parent of a child with special needs, so she understands the challenges of raising kids who might react poorly to Halloween novelties such as jack-o’-lanterns and spooky skeleton decorations.
Last year, before her students even went out to the school’s pumpkin patch, she took care to take the scare out of skeleton decorations by showing the children that “our bones are just what’s inside of us,” and had them cut into pumpkins to empty out the seeds.
“We wanted to demystify the unusual aspects of it, but we were also facing the reality of trying to transport our kids to the Rotary pumpkin patch, as well as how wheelchairs would maneuver once they got there,” Marble said of her special education students.
This year, Marble reported that the Marysville Rotary remained as helpful as ever, but because Rotary was flooded with far more requests for pumpkins, they couldn’t spare as many pumpkins for Marshall Elementary as the roughly 100 Rotary pumpkins that were strewn across the school’s soccer fields last year.
“What we got more of this year, though, was community involvement,” Marble said. “We had many more parents asking about it, and we got a lot more volunteers, 15 this year, up from the seven we had last year. The word of mouth from last year got everyone excited. School staff and families were helping set up the pumpkin patch in the morning, and Jim Jensen’s students even made posters to promote it. There was no shortage of care or support.”
While the Marysville Rotary donated the pumpkins, the staff and families of Marshall Elementary and the Marysville Cooperative Education Program donated candy and prizes for the activities in the school’s smaller gym.
“Last year’s event had more of a carnival theme,” Marble said. “This year’s decor and contests were more seasonally appropriate. Not only were there rubber spiders and monsters, but we collected between five and six bags of autumn leaves to scatter all over the pumpkin patch fields and in the small gym. A short slide in the gym let kids go into a dry wading pool full of leaves, and they could look for pencils and other prizes in another pool of leaves.”
All the Marshall Elementary preschool parents who spoke with The Marysville Globe agreed that their children enjoyed themselves during the event.
“It’s good for him to try something that gives him different sensory experiences,” said Stacey Henry, mother of Mason. “He likes to put his pumpkins in a pile and count them.”
“It’s been a wonderful time,” said Sara Miskin, mother of Corbin. “This is his first trip to a pumpkin patch, and the fact that we have the opportunity to experience this together, in a small town like Marysville, is just awesome. What I love about this school is that it welcomes parents to be a part of it.”
Lacy Callahan, mother of Waylon Payette, likewise appreciated that the Marshall Elementary pumpkin patch provided students with a field trip just outside of their classrooms.
“It also brings the parents together, so we can witness the atmosphere of our kids’ classes and see how they’re doing,” Callahan said. “I love that they put this all together for our little guys.”
“It’s wonderful that the staff, parents and community of Marshall Elementary are willing to go to all this work to allow these students to enjoy this stage of childhood,” said Dr. Becky Berg, superintendent of the Marysville School District, who happened to be visiting the school that day. “It lets kids be kids.”
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