“Without farmers, we would not eat.”
This is a message that Melanie Kagey is proud to teach her third grade class at Independent Day School in Connecticut. Kagey knows this lesson from living on her own dairy farm, and she is now able to bring it to life in the classroom through Discover Dairy’s Adopt A Cow program. Kagey first introduced her classroom to the program during the 2020-21 school year. Kagey and her husband recently moved away from the farm, so he told her it would be an opportunity to “have a cow, without actually having a cow”.
For the 2021 – 2022 school year, Kagey’s class was lucky to be paired with Farmer Erica and her Connecticut-based farm, Fair Home Farms. Peanut was the lucky calf that Independent Day School third graders were able to call their own. They received photos, video updates, and other dairy activities throughout the school year as they watched Peanut grow.
Independent Day School is not new to the world of agriculture. The school sits in a rural area and is home to students who participate in 4-H with the county fair being held just up the road from the school. Kagey’s students worked hard to submit their own project to the fair.
“They made a whole picture of everything Peanut needs to survive. She’s got her silos, her fence, and her haybales… They wrote and they drew all about what she needs and submitted to the fair. We got first place,” she shared.
In addition to art, her students use Peanut in math to learn how to measure. Some of the students have found that they have grown taller than Peanut’s mom, Cookie. Peanut is also a big part of their reading and writing curriculum through material provided by the Adopt A Cow program. In the social studies side of the classroom, students researched more about the town Peanut lives in and how it differs from their own town. Plus, when learning about the Industrial Revolution, one student made the connection that the mechanical reaper was able to help cows like Peanut get their food faster.
Besides using the provided Adopt A Cow material, Kagey has also been able to bring in a few guests to talk more about the dairy industry.
“We have kids involved in our own 4-H in our area and I had a couple of them come in and talk about what it’s like during calving season. It’s a great way to get the whole community involved”, she said.
Outside of the normal curriculum, Kagey has even found opportunities to do some career exploration.
“Food doesn’t just come from the grocery store…It comes from somewhere. You need the farmers. You need the truck drivers. You need your blue-collared workers in order for you to survive,” Kagey said.
Even though her students live in a rural area, many are still accustomed to the traditional jobs of being a lawyer or a doctor. Thanks to Peanut, students have learned about a whole new career path. Now, Kagey mentioned that some of her students have an interest in going into the dairy industry to work with cows like their own Peanut.
“’I want to be a dairy farmer now! I don’t need to be a lawyer. I can be a dairy farmer,’” said one of Kagey’s students.
Peanut’s adventures don’t stop inside of the classroom, though. Kagey used a plush cow and notebook sent to her through the program to send Peanut home with students. Peanut has taken trips, done some baking and did her homework during her adventures.
Kagey has registered for the program once again this school year and is looking forward to another year of learning with her third graders.
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, and Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council.