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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Woodland Hills

Farm School's Founder Honored

May 11, 2000|EDGAR SANDOVAL

Sam Steg just wanted a few Valley children to enjoy the outdoors and farm animals.

Little did he know that his idea would develop into Farm School, an unusual place where children learn about animals and nature.

Now marking its 45th year, Farm School, located on Oxnard Street, operates as a preschool during the academic year and a camp during the summer.

On Wednesday, more than 200 students, parents and staff gathered in front of a giant 500-year-old oak tree in the middle of the Woodland Hills schoolyard to honor the man who created a place where children get a taste of rural life.

"I have no words," said an emotional Steg, 80. "I'm speechless, moved."

Steg posed for photos with children, ate cake and left his handprints in cement to commemorate the date. Watching children run around the 4 1/2-acre campus reminded him of his own childhood in Poland, he said.

"I was raised on a farm with the animals and had a lot of fun," he said. "I just wanted children to have as much fun as I did."

Steg was 35 when he opened the first Farm School in Van Nuys with about 20 students in 1955. Five years later he relocated the school to the Woodland Hills site, and today it has 12 classrooms, more than 200 students, 20 birds, two sheep, six bunnies, five goats and a large playground.

"The school was here before the suburbs," said school director Bobbie Primack. "We are part of history. We have children of former students who now go to school here."

Steg may be modest, but teachers and parents have plenty to say about him.

"He truly loves kids. He likes it when kids hug him and he hugs them back," said longtime teacher Vicky Stanislaw.

Lori Blackwell, president of the school's parent association, said her 6-year-old daughter Alexis felt nervous when she first arrived at Farm School.

Alexis was learning to make teddy bears when Steg walked into the classroom and helped her, making her feel at ease, Blackwell said.

"How many owners show up for teddy bear day?" Blackwell asked. "We just hope the school never changes."

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