WOODLAND HILLS — 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 in its 45th year, Farm School, on Oxnard Street in Woodland Hills, 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 500-year-old oak in the middle of the schoolyard to honor the man who created a place where children get a taste of the rural life.
"I have no words," the 80-year-old Steg said. "I'm speechless, moved."
Steg took photos with children, ate cake and left his handprints on a cement block to mark 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 opened the Farm School in Van Nuys with about 20 students. In 1960, he relocated it to Woodland Hills 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."