Kids + Calves = Background Knowledge

Recently, after reading a book that had characters living on farms and ranches, I had 2 students ask me a couple of questions that really got me thinking about an area of education that our kids are missing. 1. Are there still farms today? 2. Do people really live on ranches?

Just this week, we had a silly story by Karma Wilson about a cow who loved cookies.   It talks about what all the other farm animals eat and then it says that the cow and farmer share cookies with milk. In introducing the story, I asked the kids what cows really eat. Out of 44 kindergarteners, I had one kid that finally said, “hay”. The other answers that I had were “milk” and “meat”. Milk was the most common answer. I had to tell the kids grass and grain. These kids could not automatically identify what a cow would eat. Again, I was surprised by the lack of background that these kids have.

You can see a page from this book at Karma’s site: The Cow Loes Cookies

On the surface, these seem like simple questions with simple answers. I teach in a West Texas school and we tend to think that our students know about country life and where their food comes from, but we are mistaken.  Over the last year, I have been trying to incorporate stories and information about livestock and farming. What makes this difficult is the fact that my students have NO background knowledge to start a study of farming or ranching.

I grew up on a farm in Kansas and married a Texas rancher, so my world revolves around livestock and farming. My kids have grown up working outside with chores that most people in town could not even dream about. Going out to bottle feed a calf or feed livestock before going to school is a common practice. Spending school holidays rounding up cattle, breaking ice in water tanks, building fence, hauling hay… are the norms. Our entire family considers farming and ranching the normal life.

Now I need to find a way to show students that don’t have these opportunities, about this lifestyle that has been such a huge part of our heritage. I’ve been thinking about different ways to do this that does not include trips out of town, since field trip budgets are tight. One way I would like to start this process is by setting up a Calf to Kids program for this next school year.  This program will allow classes and families to take part in raising a calf.  Each class or family will get to adopt a calf from our ranch. They will get an adoption certificate with their own chosen name for the calf. Weekly, they will receive pictures and a journal entry detailing what the calf is doing and how it is growing. Information/fact sheets about cattle and ranching will be included, as well as having questions answered through email. Books that help teach the ranching concepts can be included and sent to the students.  If it’s possible, We’ll try to plan a Skype or in person visit with the class.

Different 6 week subscription levels that will be available:

Option 1 –  adoption document, weekly pictures, weekly journal, activities, fact sheet, Q&A

Option 2 – add 2 nonfiction and 1 fiction read aloud book

Option 3 – add a visit with rancher (skype or in person locally with calf if possible)

I will open up these subscriptions on my facebook page WMW Facebook and this site when it is ready to go. I would love your comments or suggestions about this program.



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