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Connecticut Teacher Brings Cows and Careers to the Classroom

“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.

Farmer Spotlight: Dwight Rokey Shares His Story with Elementary Students

Dwight Rokey is no stranger to Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program. His dairy farm, Rokeyroad Holsteins, in Sabetha, Kansas has served as a host farm in the program for three years now. This year, classrooms from Kansas and Oklahoma both had the pleasure of being welcomed into the Rokeyroad Holstein barns.

The Adopt A Cow program has a following of more than 800,000 students across the globe. The program pairs elementary and middle school classrooms with dairy farms like Rokey’s and allows them to “adopt” a calf from the farm. Through photo and video updates throughout the year, they can watch the calf grow and have opportunities to chat with Rokey and their host farm to learn more about modern dairy farming practices.

“Just the amount of students and people [the program] reaches to showcase what we do on the dairy farm is great. We’re able to tell our story about what we do on the farm, the kind of products we produce, and let kids know how healthy and essential they are to their diet,” Rokey said. “I really enjoy meeting with kids and sharing what we do. I like to get [our story] out there.”

Rokey has participated in the program for the last three years because of the unique experiences that have come about. One of these experiences includes a student and their mother coming from Oklahoma to tour the farm and meet the calf that their class had adopted. This isn’t the first time Rokey has had visitors from the classroom. Teachers have also stopped by to meet him and get the full Rokeyroad Holsteins experience.

“We’ve had students visit who have never been on the farm or don’t even know what a cow is. To have them interact is just really good,” Rokey added.

Throughout the program, the Rokey family has received many gifts from their classrooms such as school branded shirts, hats and cups. The family isn’t the only one to receive a surprise in the mail. Students have sent hundreds of birthday cards, drawings and holiday greeting cards to the calves themselves.

Rokey shared with a laugh how he has had to take some extra time to learn the technology of the program. While he enjoys the in-person experiences, he does see the benefits of virtual programing as he has been able to reach more classrooms.

At the end of the day, Rokey encourages other dairy farmers to consider joining the Adopt A Cow experience.

“It’s just so rewarding to see the positive feedback, the inspiration, and the enthusiasm in the kids that it’s just hard to say no,” said Rokey.

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.

10 Dairy-Themed Activities for Kids This Summer

With long, hot summer days stretching ahead of us, these dairy-themed activities will keep your kids active this summer and introduce them to dairy farming in creative, hands-on ways. From outdoor planters and bird feeders for your yard to homemade popsicle and ice cream recipes, we hope these activities bring some creativity and fun to your summer adventures. Don’t forget to tag Discover Dairy on social media to share your dairy-themed summer fun with us!

1. Make Milk Jug Planters for Your Garden

Recycled milk jugs make the perfect planter for your favorite summer flowers. Help your child pick out the flower of their choice, and prepare the milk jug to be filled with soil and placed in your garden or outside your home. You can get extra creative and use paint to decorate the milk jug with cow spots!

(Source: Crafty Nest)

2. Use Yogurt Cups to Start Seedlings

One of the best parts about summer is enjoying the sunshine and nature around us. Gardening is a great way for kids of all ages to explore the world around thm. After enjoying your favorite yogurt, clean it out and use it as a mini planter to plant seedlings for your child’s favorite vegetable or plant. Watch it grow together throughout the summer. You can also make connections to dairy farming by explaining how farmers plant seeds each spring to grow different crops, like corn and alfalfa, for their cows to eat.

(Source: Simple Joy)

3. Cool Off With Ice Cream in a Bag

On those hot summer days, there’s nothing better than a cold ice cream cone. With just a few simple ingredients – including whole milk, rock salt, ice, sugar, and vanilla extract – you can make fresh, homemade ice cream in a gallon size bag. Don’t forget to buy milk from your local dairy farms to include in the ice cream!

(Source: American Dairy Association Indiana)

4. Make Your Own ‘Milk the Cow’ Activity

If you can’t visit a local dairy farm, you can get crafty with this “milk the cow” activity.  Mix a little bit of white paint with water and pour it into a clear latex glove, closing it off with a rubber band. Consider drawing some cow spots on the glove, and then poke tiny holes in the “udders.” This is a fun activity to do outside so you don’t make a mess! This activity is also a hands-on way to demonstrate milking a cow, although most dairy farms across the United States use technology, including robotic milking systems, to milk their cows.

(Source: Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten)

5. Visit a Local Farm

Many dairy farms host family-friendly events during the summer months with hand-crafted ice cream, opportunities to meet baby calves, hayrides, farm tours, and more! Consider taking a day trip with your children to visit a dairy farm in your community. If you live in Pennsylvania, click here to view a list of family-friendly dairy events happening in June and July.

6. Paint with Nature

Want to combine art class with outdoor play? Find a cool spot in the shade and bring a stack of paper and different shades of paint. Encourage your kids to find items in the yard and garden to paint with, so they can get creative with texture and strokes. To make connections to dairy farms in your community, you can add items that you might find on the farm – such as corn cobs and husks – that kids can roll in paint and make intricate designs.

(Source: Hands On As We Grow)

7. Make Homemade Popsicles

If you’re looking for a nutritious popsicle recipe, this one features fresh strawberries, raspberries and vanilla yogurt – one of kids’ favorite dairy products! Visit your local farmer’s market to get the fresh fruit of your choice. You can make this recipe at home using disposable cups and popsicle sticks and freeze them to enjoy on a hot day!

(Source: Savor Recipes)

8. Create Your Own Milk Jug Bird Feeder

Whether your kids seem to enjoy math and science, or art and creativity, this summer project is the best of both worlds. After finishing the gallon of milk in your fridge, upcycle it and use it to create a bird feeder. Cut small holes into the sides of the milk jug, and then slide wooden twigs through from one hole to the other to serve as perches. After decorating the feeder with paint and sequins to help attract birds, fill it with seed and hang it on display in your backyard.

(Source: Little House Living)

9. Design Your Own Rain Gauge

When it comes to growing crops and harvesting them to feed their cows, dairy farmers are impacted daily by the weather and rainfall. You can make these connections with your kids by designing your own rain gauge at home. Using a plastic bottle or empty milk jug, cut off the top and draw marks to help measure how much it rains. Make sure to add some rocks to the bottom to help it stay in place.

(Source: The Lady Birds’ Adventures)

 10. Make Pretzel Stick Cow Pops

If you’re looking for a yummy summer treat or a favor for a farm-themed party, these cow pretzel pops are sure to be a hit! Dip each pretzel rod into melted chocolate and use modeling chocolate to make spots, eyes, and other cow features.

(Source: Hungry Happenings)

Vote for the Most Kissable Calf

Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program has been “love at first moo” for classrooms across the globe this school year! This February, join us for a fun contest to help share the love for your adopted calf. Use the poll below to vote for the most kissable calf by clicking on one of the photos. At the end of February, we will announce the winner of the “most kissable calf” contest, and the winning calf and her host family will receive a calf care package! Share this page to spread the word and encourage others to follow along.

For some added fun, we have three free digital valentine templates you can personalize to share the love for your adopted calf. Click here to view and download our valentine templates.

Helpful Tips for Valentine Templates:

  • After clicking on the link to view the templates, select “Edit Design” and sign up to create a free Canva account.
  • Once you create your account, it will reveal three valentine templates that you can edit and personalize with your own calf photo and text. Click on the empty image boxes to drag and upload your photos. Click on the text to edit with your own message.
  • When you’re done, click the “Download” button on the top right of the screen. Select the page number of your valentine based on the template you chose. Within seconds, you will have your personalized image ready to share/print!
  • Note: If your browser or school system does not allow access to Canva and blocks the above link, you may have to change your browser settings or contact your IT Department to see how you can receive access to the site.

Voting is now closed. Congratulations to Olive from Zahncroft Dairy for winning the contest! They will receive a calf care package. View our Facebook post for more details.

Fall Dairy Activity Guide for Teachers and Parents

As the days grow cooler and the leaves change color, we have a variety of fun, fall-themed activities that will keep your kids and students busy, introduce them to dairy in creative ways, and help them connect with the changing seasons. With crafts, hands-on activities, and recipe ideas, there’s something for everyone – whether you want to get cozy inside or take an adventure outdoors! Don’t forget to tag Discover Dairy on social media to share your dairy-themed fall adventures with us.

Take a Scavenger Hunt and Create Cow-Print Leaves

This activity and craft gives kids the chance to get outside and use their imagination. First, bundle up and take a short scavenger hunt outside. Encourage kids to find leaves, sticks, and any other materials. Then, get crafty with the items you find – and consider painting a leaf black and white with cow spots!

(Source: Handmade Charlotte)

Design a Yogurt Cup Turkey

If you’re feeling festive and want to get a serving of dairy in your diet, try making these yogurt cup turkeys! After you enjoy your favorite flavor of yogurt, take some feathers, paint, foam and googly eyes and transform it into a colorful turkey.

(Source: Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails)

Indulge in an Apple Cider Float

There’s nothing sweeter than celebrating the fall season with an apple cider ice cream float. You can get a firsthand look at agriculture by taking a trip to an orchard near you to buy local cider and a creamery that makes their own vanilla ice cream! Don’t forget to top it with whipped cream, one of the best dairy treats.

(Source: Delish)

Paint With Corn on the Cob

Corn crafts are perfect during the harvest season and Thanksgiving holiday. Many dairy farmers grow corn on their farms throughout the year, so this makes a hands-on connection to agriculture and will give your students an experience with texture painting.

(Source: Natural Beach Living)

Make a Snowman Out of a Milk Jug

If you can’t wait for the first winter snow, try getting creative and making a snowman out of an empty milk jug. We encourage you to get a gallon of local milk from the grocery store (remember, milk has nine essential nutrients), and once you finish it, you can start decorating!

(Source: Fabulessly Frugal)

Create a Turkey Cheese Ball

Filled with cream cheese and cheddar cheese, this dairy-filled recipe will be a festive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table. Get the kids involved with adding pretzels to make the full tail of the turkey.

(Source: Crafts a la Mode)

Build a Pine Cone Cow

Pine cones are one of nature’s best craft supplies, so why not put them to good use? Spend some time outdoors picking the right pine cone for the project, and then transform it into a cow with paint, felt and pipe cleaners!

(Source: Manda Panda Projects)

Make Cow Handprint Art

This craft can be a fun twist on the traditional turkey handprint kids like to make during the fall season. Help them dip their hands into white paint, and after they’re done adding the cow’s spots, take it a step further by naming the cow and adding it to the artwork!

(Source: Artsy Crafty Mom)

Get Festive With a Turkey-Shaped Cheese Platter  

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a turkey-shaped cheese platter to snack on as you wait for the main course. Let the kids pick out their favorite cheese, and cut up different varieties to arrange as the turkey’s tail and feathers.

(Source: Melanie Cooks)

Wow the Crowd With Spiced Apple Cheesecake Bites

Small in size but big on flavor, these cheesecake bites are a festive dairy treat that the whole family will enjoy. If spiced apple isn’t your thing, switch it up by adding pumpkin, pecans, or chocolate instead!

(Source: American Dairy Association North East)

Adopt A Cow Program Helps Seniors with Memory Loss

When Sandy Mayer, a volunteer at Kensington Park Senior Living in South Kensington, Maryland, heard about Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program, she initially sent it to her friend who was an elementary teacher. However, she then began to wonder if groups other than students could enjoy the program – the residents at Kensington Park Senior Living being the ones on her mind.

Sandy shared the program with Kyoko Marrone, the Kensington Club Coordinator and activity director, who loved the idea and thought it would be an exciting program for their residents.

The Kensington Club is a unique club with members who are in a stage between assisted living and memory care. The 12 residents in the club range from having mild and cognitive memory loss issues to early Alzheimer’s. The club allows them to receive more individual attention and to have more activities throughout the day.

When the club began participating in the Adopt a Cow program, they were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Kyoko and Sandy liked to take the residents on outings twice a week to nature centers and museums in Washington D.C. When COVID-19 hit, they had to rely on virtual programs, such as Adopt a Cow, to engage with their residents instead.

“I think it just changed the direction of how Kyoko thought about the activities,” Sandy said. “She started organizing more virtual trips, programs, and even made a vegetable garden for the residents.”

Before the residents found out they would be adopting a calf, Kyoko shared a virtual farm tour with them to build their excitement. This sparked one of the residents with memory loss to recall a piece of her childhood.

“When they saw the virtual farm tour, she started talking about how she used to grow up on a farm. So, it was really good for her to deeply connect to her memory. She gave us a great lecture about the farm and how she took care of the animals every day,” Kyoko shared.

A few weeks before the announcement of their calf arrived, Sandy and Kyoko started hinting towards the residents about what was to come. For Halloween, Sandy even came to the facility dressed in a cow costume!

For the next few weeks prior to seeing their calf, they also did weekly trivia about farmers and the dairy industry. After Sara, the calf they adopted was announced, Sandy created adoption certificates for each of the residents. One of the residents was so excited she hung her certificate on her bedroom door.

Over the next few months, Sandy and Kyoko planned fun activities to keep their residents intrigued with Sara, their calf, and the dairy industry.

Kyoko made a large chart that monitored Sara’s height and weight as she grew. She also plans to make a fun cow visor craft in the summer.

“This is the bridge between assisted living and memory care living,” Sandy added. “To get that spark in residents, it was a fun time to be with them and to get them involved in something they are so excited about.”

Discover Dairy’s Adopt a Cow program gives students and families a firsthand look at dairy farming. For the 2020-21 school year, more than 70,000 classrooms and homes signed up for the program, impacting more than 1.5 million students across the nation.

Discover Dairy is an educational series managed by the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania in partnership with American Dairy Association North East, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Midwest Dairy, and The Dairy Alliance.

Learn more about how you can support this program.