Life on an 1800s farm

The Institute at Renfrew’s cultural history education programs offer students a fun way to learn about farmlife in the 1800s.

Unless otherwise noted, all programs are two hours long and the cost is $6/student. Groups may have between 15 and 30 children. There is no charge for accompanying adults.

Once Upon A Farm

Kindergarten & Grade 1

Young children are introduced to farmstead life of the early 1800s in this program, the first in a series about the Pennsylvania German culture of our region. Students learn that people of the past needed food, clothing and shelter, as well as a little fun—just like today!
An instructor dressed in period clothing greets the children. After an introduction in a historic building on the property, the class moves to the yard of the Royer or Fahnestock farmhouse. There they participate in a variety of hands-on activities, such as Pennsylvania German dress-up, sewing, and a chore and game station. Throughout the program the children learn nursery rhymes, which connect them to the activity at hand. The experience concludes with a story about a little girl and her favorite quilt.

Underwriting support provided in part by Peggy McCleary, The William & Diane Nitterhouse Foundation; and Pat Heefner, in memory of Jean Foster

Von Gras zu Milch (From Grass to Milk):
Dairy Culture of the Pennsylvania Germans

Grade 1 & up

Students learn how settlers made and used butter and other dairy goods to supply an important part of their diet. Through storytelling and first person interpretation, students meet Nancy Royer, a young woman who lived on this farm in the early 1800s. Nancy helps students step back in time as she questions their strange clothes and travel methods. Students visit the Royer milkhouse, churn cream into butter, and make samples to take home. Instructors dressed in period clothing help students compare and contrast life in the 1800s with modern life today.

Underwriting support provided in part by Land O’Lakes Foundation; Patriot Federal Credit Union; AgChoice Farm Credit; Jay Heefner, in memory of Evelyn Heefner

Kids learn how to make butter during the Dairy Culture program.
Flax straw is scutched to remove the hard shell from the stems.

The Pennsylvania German Garden

Grade 2 & up

Students are introduced to the four-square garden and its importance in the lives of the Pennsylvania Germans of the 1800s. They also learn the significance of the four-square garden design. Hands-on activities involve students in seasonal garden tasks (planting, watering, sorting, harvesting). Concepts in historic preservation, farmstead culture, folklore, plant biology, natural history, ecology, and environmental awareness are included. Instructors dressed in period clothing help students compare and contrast life in the 1800s with modern life today.

Underwriting support provided in part by M & T Charitable Foundation; The Bolte Fund (C. Clint & Mary T. Bolte)–Vanguard Charitable Foundation; and Younger Toyota

Raising Clothes:
Wool Culture of the Pennsylvania Germans

Grade 3 & up

As a study in living history, students explore, through hands-on participation, how Pennsylvania Germans of the early 1800s worked wool and made it into cloth, and how they used this cloth to help meet their textile needs. Students wash and card the wool and weave the yarn into cloth. They see firsthand how much work is involved in raising and creating their own clothes. Instructors dressed in period clothing help students compare and contrast life in the 1800s with modern life today.

Underwriting support provided in part by Mary’s Delight Farm–Leonora Rocca Bernheisel.

Growing Clothes:
Flax Culture of the Pennsylvania Germans

Grade 4 & up (Fall only)

This program is designed around the growing and processing of flax and its historic importance to the farm families of this region. By working with flax on a first-hand basis, children are exposed to the concept that the people of the past met the demands of daily life by extracting energy from the local environment. Students process the flax from drying and breaking to scutching, hatcheling, spinning, and weaving. Instructors dressed in period clothing help students compare and contrast life in the 1800s with modern life today.

Underwriting support provided in part by Julia & Andrew Klein and Jeanne & Mark Bintrim, in memory of Joe & Ellie Miller; and Betsy Payette

From Field to Table:
Pennsylvania German Food Preservation & Preparation

Grade 5 & up (Fall only)

Students learn how the Pennsylvania German settlers provisioned themselves for the winter. Offered in the fall season, the program uses hands-on activities to demonstrate basic methods of food preservation such as drying, pickling, candying, and cellaring. Within the context of food preservation, students learn about aspects of basic physical science, such as compounds, mixtures, acids, and bases. Hands-on activities are varied and may include grinding grain and “stomping kraut.” The concept of self-sufficiency is explained as students compare and contrast the technology of the early 1800s with that of today. Students gain awareness of their reliance on modern agricultural industry and practices to provide for nutritional needs, and learn of its economic importance in the region.

Underwriting support provided in part by Debi & Greg Duffey in memory of C. Alvin Henicle; and F&M Trust Company

The Royer Legacy

Grade 6 & up (Fall only)

A culmination of the Renfrew experience, this program is designed for sixth grade students who are completing the sequence of elementary programs offered by Renfrew Institute. Students are taken into the Royer home (mansion house) where they learn how the Renfrew property became a gift to the community of Waynesboro. They enjoy a tour of the house and also participate in hands-on activities that demonstrate the behind-the-scenes work involved in museum operation.

In addition, students take a walking tour of the Royer farm (Renfrew property) which includes a visit to the summer kitchen, Fahnestock barn, and the lime kiln. An Institute instructor helps students pull together pieces of their past Renfrew experiences to create a deeper understanding of the Royer/Renfrew farmstead—past, present, and future.

Underwriting support provided in part by Michael Beck Family, in memory of Denise Beck; Mary’s Delight Farm–Leonora Rocca Bernheisel

For more detailed information and a complete description of school programs and fees, contact The Institute at Renfrew by phone at (717) 762-0373 or by email at

children planting in garden
Students learn to plant and other garden tasks, as well as the history and culture of the Pennsylvania German 4-Square garden.