Milk on the Moooove: Mobile Dairy Brings Cows to PV Classrooms
October 20, 2016
Students at Williams Ranch and Pleasant Valley elementary schools welcomed a 1,100-pound visitor on Wednesday — a three-year-old black and white spotted Holstein cow named Snickers.
The cow visited the school as part of the Mobile Dairy Classroom, an initiative of the Dairy Council of California. In two separate sessions, students from Williams Ranch and Pleasant Valley spent about 45 minutes learning how milk makes it from cows like Snickers into the cartons in their school's cafeteria.
"In California, there are a little over one million dairy cows producing milk," Kimberlee Youman, one of the program's instructors, told the students. "Snickers is a part of that."
The Mobile Dairy Classroom began in Los Angeles in the 1930s as a way to teach children about agriculture. Today, five mobile dairy classrooms travel to schools throughout the state, providing a free, hands-on learning opportunity to more than 400,000 elementary school students each year.
Williams Ranch and Pleasant Valley won a visit from the mobile classroom through a raffle conducted last year when the Dairy Council presented its Common Core-aligned nutrition curriculum at a workshop for county teachers.
"We really work hard to try to provide these kinds of enrichment experiences for our students," said Teena Corker, principal at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. "When we have these opportunities, we seize on them."
On Wednesday, after raising the door of the livestock trailer to reveal Snickers, Youman led the students in a discussion about the anatomy of a cow and the technology used in milk production, and quizzed the students on the nutritional value of milk.
The kids learned about the cow's diet — a blended mixture of alfalfa hay, corn, cotton seed, molasses and banana and orange peels — as well as its digestion process. After cows chew their food from side to side, Youman said, it goes into its stomach, which has four different pockets for digestion. A cow then regurgitates its food and chews it a second time, a process known as "chewing cud."
"Actually she's chewing her cud right now," Youman told students during the presentation. The cow's throat jiggled, and then it began to munch on the regurgitated food, eliciting first a loud "Ew!" and then a round of applause.
The students were also able to pet a five-month-old calf named Penny.
"I've never touched a cow before so it was cool," said Abbey Gerpheide, a sixth-grader at Pleasant Valley.
Fourth-grader Baylie Flecksteiner said seeing Snickers and Penny helped her understand the animals better than she might by reading about them in the classroom.
"If you read it in a book ,you don't get to touch it and you don't actually get to see or learn in real life," she said.
Fellow fourth-grader Landon Valdez agreed.
"You can't pet a cow when it's in a book," he said. "That would have to be a pretty big book."
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.