Adopt a Cow Program Helps Kindergarten Teacher Show Students Dairy Farmers Are Real People

As a long-term substitute at an elementary school in Washington, Amy Vaagen was looking for a way to engage her kindergarten students and get them excited about learning. Located near the Columbia River Basin where they grow tree fruit, her students were familiar with agriculture but most had never been exposed to dairy farming in particular. When Amy heard about Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program, she signed up and started planning ways to connect it to Common CORE standards.

“The students were totally excited about the program. We tied it into our math curriculum and were able to use Common CORE standards for spatial awareness, size, and things like that. They were super excited about the potential of the calf updates coming and what she might look like next,” Amy shared.

After joining the free program, Amy’s classroom was paired with a Washington dairy farm and received regular photos, video updates, lesson ideas and other activities throughout the year. Many of the activities focused on how milk is produced and how some of their favorite dairy products, such as ice cream and cheese, are created. Amy helped her students visualize the process of making cheese and other dairy products, and her kindergarten students had fun mapping out the different steps on pieces of paper.

“We talked about dairy and where food comes from. They had no idea that milk came from cows. Most of them did not know that. They were blown away,” she added.

When they first found out who their calf was, Amy’s students also created their own birth announcements that they took home to share with their families.

“They got to share with their families what they were learning, what was happening to the calf, and how much taller they were than the calf. They were excited about all those different aspects,” Amy said.

To help build connections with her curriculum, Amy also focused on reading and writing standards by guiding her students through writing exercises. They wrote notes to the farmers to ask what’s happening or express their thoughts and feelings about the calf, which helped strengthen their writing skills and helped them realize farmers are real people.

“It’s really important for kids to see value in our agriculture community and those who work in it – for them to make real connections with who those people are and what they’re doing. The virtual farm tours helped them see that these are real people,” Amy added. “I would 100% recommend the Adopt a Cow program. It ties into so much of what we’re already doing, and it’s so engaging for the kids. This is something they really gravitate toward and get excited about.”

Discover Dairy is an educational series managed by the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania in partnership with American Dairy Association Northeast, American Dairy Association Indiana, Midwest Dairy, The Dairy Alliance, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Dairy Council of Arizona and Nevada, Dairy West, New England Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Washington, American Dairy Association Mideast, Dairy Council of Florida, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council, and Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.