Adventurous children came face-to-face with rare breeds of chickens, pigs and sheep while others tried their hand at 18th-century chores and games during the Accokeek Foundation’s annual children’s day and open barn exhibit on Saturday at Piscataway Park.
Leilani Gudino, a 9-year-old from Fort Washington, woke her mother at 6 a.m. Saturday, excited to churn butter, plant cotton and cook pancakes made with cornmeal at one of the children’s day stations.
“I got to mix it around, add the cornmeal and flour, and cook it,” said Leilani, demonstrating how she mixed the batter and flipped the pancakes.
About a hundred children visit during the children’s day event each year, learning about the lives of middle-class tobacco farmers — a contrast to the upper-class life of George Washington, as showcased across the Potomac River at Mount Vernon, said Anjela S. Barnes, the communications manager for the Accokeek Foundation.
The lives of the middle class in the 18th century included plenty of chores, but children made time for games, such as those played with hoops and sticks, ears of corn, and a cup and ball, said Jeannette Wheeler, a La Plata resident who works in the foundation’s visitor center and dressed in period clothing on Saturday to explain those games.
Lauren Fontaine, 10, and her younger brothers, all from Deale, played with a Jacob’s ladder toy, a set of wooden blocks connected by string.
“A lot of things were made out of wood a long time ago,” Lauren said of what she learned Saturday.
Leilani and Justice Browder, fourth-grade students at Fort Washington Forest Elementary School who took a field trip to the foundation on Monday, tried their hand at rolling a hoop across the grass with sticks before meandering over to the barnyard, where the foundation’s Heritage Breeds Conservancy Program works to preserve biodiversity by breeding rare lines of cattle, chickens, sheep, turkeys and hogs, said Polly Festa, the livestock manager.
“If we didn’t, they’d be gone,” Festa said of the American Milking Devons, the Hog Island sheep and Ossabaw hogs.
The conservancy program, which has existed since the mid-1970s, also markets the less common breeds to farmers as stock and to consumers to create a demand for — and thus, a reason to preserve — these breeds, Festa said.
At the barnyard, visiting children were tasked with collecting an egg from the chicken coop while learning from staff that not all cattle are black and white, a female cow can have horns, and bacon comes from pigs, Festa said.
“There’s a huge disconnect in this country between the products you buy in the grocery store and where they come from,” she said.
The children’s day activities presented Leilani and her mother, Brijin Green, with the stark contrast between life in the 18th century and life today, Green said.
“In the day-to-day, we have routines. You go to work, sit in traffic… You come out here, and it’s relaxed; it’s quiet,” she said. “[Children] see how people from the 18th century had to be creative… Everything they did had a purpose.
“It’s good to see the contrast.”