We get up at around 5am & load the sheep, goats, calf, pig, chickens, geese, turkeys & donkeys that are going with us on our school visit. We are usually on the road by 6.30am – any later & we get held up in the rush hour traffic on the busy motorways.
Once we are set up at the school, the first group of children come out at 9am – in a very excited state (& usually the teachers are too!)
We let the children stroke all our animals while we give them lots of facts & information about each one; we encourage them to ask questions and by the end of their visit they have learned a huge amount to follow up in class topics throughout the school year.
It is very common in all schools for the children not to recognise our animals – our calf has been mistaken for a horse, a camel, a deer – or some just don’t know. Most children know that milk comes from a cow, but we have had some thinking that it comes from a supermarket and find it quite disgusting that a cow produces milk from her udder.
Our chickens often lay eggs while we are at schools and the children are convinced it will hatch. They think we are really cruel when we say we are going to eat it for our tea until we explain that it’s just the same as an egg from a supermarket and unless it is incubated for 3 weeks, it will not hatch. During this discussion we ask them if they know about how chickens are kept and the differences between Free Range, Caged, Organic & Barn eggs.
All the children can sing Baa Baa Black Sheep, but rarely have a chance to sing it to a very amenable Zwartble ewe and her lamb. It all starts to makes sense when they see the three bags of wool and we discuss what the wool makes.
Our turkeys are usually difficult for the children to recognise. I asked a group of 7 year olds if they knew what types of bird they were, and a few guesses were: “peacocks, chickens, geese…” “I’ll give you a clue”, says I, “You eat them at Christmas” – “Sprouts” came the reply – we do have very entertaining comments from the children sometimes!
At the end of our day, we hear the children excitedly telling their parents all about their experience as they leave for home at the end of the school day:
“Do you know a cow can produce 30 litres of milk?”, “Did you know a cow, sheep & a goat only have bottom teeth - and we’ve seen them.”
Each visit - a fantastic experience for the children and a rewarding day for us.
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