Lyndhurst's Scarecrow Invasion
hat images come to mind when you think of fall? Sidewalks covered in golden leaves? Stoops and doorways guarded by toothy pumpkins? What about a field full of hundreds of elaborately-costumed scarecrows?
If it sounds far out there, you've never been to Lyndhurst this time of year.
Each October, Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site, invites students to create their own art installations during their annual "Scarecrow Invasion." Local students craft scarecrows representing famous artists and historical figures on the lawn at Lyndhurst. The program includes educational tours of the mansion and integration into the classroom with students researching their creations in history class.
To learn more about this unique and imaginative program, we caught up with Judith Beil, who is the curator of education at Lyndhurst.
All invasion photos courtesy of Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site. Judith, tell us about the Scarecrow Invasion and how it got started? How many scarecrows do you have this year?
Photos of the Invasion
All invasion photos courtesy of Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site.
Judith, tell us about the Scarecrow Invasion and how it got started? How many scarecrows do you have this year?
The Scarecrow Invasion began five years ago with just one school and 100 scarecrows. It has since grown into an event with seven schools and close to 700 scarecrows. Grade levels range between first and eighth grades. This year, we invited two Title 1 schools to participate and used our scholarship money to fund their transportation. Teachers from both schools stated: "This is the best experience that our kids will have all year."
Tell us about a typical day when a group of students visit to begin creating their scarecrows. What kind of themes are there? How do they decide what to make? Do they tour and learn about Lyndhurst as well?
The students arrive at 10:00 AM with clothing and pre-made masks coated with polyurethane. We provide the wooden supports, straw, and staple guns. The field is organized according to schools and the students pick out their structure. They then create their scarecrow. Themes for this year's crop of scarecrows are historical figures; famous people (including Queen Elizabeth and Julia Child); monsters; something we called "inside a teenager's brain;" clowns; and a generic group ranging from a wood nymph to Yoda. The students also participate in one of our educational program tours according to their grade level.
What do you think the scarecrow project brings to these kids? Why is it important for students of all ages and grade levels to participate in activities like this?
This is the fifth year of the program, and we now have a waiting list of schools that are interested in participating. Essentially, the event gives students an opportunity to exhibit one of their designs – something they create – at a real museum. We like to think of it as an environmental installation. Students also research their creation in their history and language arts classes, and several groups write stories about their characters. Additionally, many art teachers discuss and review the creations in their classes.
What other educational programming and activities does Lyndhurst offer students throughout the year?
We offer a range of interactive school programs beginning with pre-school and going through high school. Educators can visit www.lyndhurst.org/education.html for more information.
So, what happens to all of the materials and clothing once Halloween is over? And we have to ask – do you have any favorites among this year's scarecrows?
The clothing is removed from the wooden supports by volunteers and young adults from YAI, a day treatment facility in Tarrytown. Reusable clothing is then washed and donated to homeless shelters in the area. As for a favorite, I can't possibly choose – they are all fabulous!
Judith Beil is the curator of education at Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site.
Does your school matter? Take a class picture in front of your older or historic school building and share it with the world through the National Trust's This Place Matters campaign. No camera? No problem! Plant a flag on our interactive map.