GAINES — It’s not uncommon for elementary students to have a classroom rabbit or guinea pig or similar little critter. But, a cow?
Well, Gaines Elementary School has adopted a calf named Snowflake. The thing is, although they won’t have to feed her or clean up after her, they will get to learn a lot about the dairy industry from her via virtual fieldtrips and classroom lessons.
Teacher Jennifer Vander Laan discovered the opportunity by chance, and knew it would be a perfect fit for Gaines’ agricultural focus.
The Adopt a Cow program is run through Discover Dairy, a Pennsylvania-based agricultural initiative that provides interactive lessons for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
All lessons follow common core standards in math, reading and science, and students learn the value of dairy farming in the community, economy, state and country.
“I found out about this program from a friend sharing it on Facebook this summer,” said teacher Jennifer Vander Laan. “I thought it might be something fun, so I signed up and literally forgot about it. Then, we got emails this fall telling us about the program.”
Participation is free thanks to the program sponsors.
Gaines Elementary was assigned to Walmoore Holsteins, a family farm in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, where Snowflake was born Oct. 2. The farm was established in 1909 and now includes more than 1,000 milk cows.
“By adopting this calf, we get to watch her grow up over the school year,” said Vander Laan. “They will send updates in January and March. We will not get to visit the calf in person, but they do offer virtual field trips to their farm as part of the lessons. Some of these are actually life so you can talk with the farmer.”