A middle school is looking to bring more skill-based training to children by bringing the farm to school with barn animals.
Schools are perpetually thinking up new ideas to get kids involved with more hands-on life skills. Even the President of the United States has recently emphasized a need for skills-based education over degrees. And farm and agriculture are one of those categories that desperately need more attention. One school is addressing this need with a big ambition: adding barn animals to school.
The Sturgis Middle School in Sturgis, Michigan has been floating around the idea of bringing barn animals to live in the school. Just how exactly they plan on doing this is still unknown, but it’s a big ambition to which the superintendent has said “why not?” The concept was first showcased this past Monday night at a school board meeting.
The Sturgis Public School superintendent, Art Ebert, was all about the vision to bring barn animals into the school. He noted that the idea is something the middle school has considered for years. The superintendent also was excited about the farm initiative because he knows the possibilities are endless.
The benefits of implementing farms and barn animals into schools are not something new. But there has been an enormous push in the last decade to embrace more teachings on farming and sustainability. As the world population continues to rise to alarming levels, there is a dire need for more farm production. Similarly, more recent reports show that high-capacity farming with chemicals and soil pollutants has done more harm than good, and the demand for organic food is growing. Beyond that, barn animals can improve behavior, teach lessons of care, connection, empathy, ownership, pride, and are opportunities for alternative therapy for students.
Across the Atlantic, a private school in Colwall, Herefordshire has been in the business of barn animals for quite some time. The Elms School houses 18 cattle, several pigs, and a vegetable garden. The headteacher at the school says the benefits are plentiful. And according to the teacher, it’s not the size of the farm that counts, it’s what you do with it to educate the young students. “It’s about giving kids a different life skill at a time when we are so obsessed with exams and results,” said headteacher Alastair Thomas.
As rewarding as it may be to implement barn animals and a farm into schools, Thomas says it’s not a simple process to get there, and it should be thoroughly considered and analyzed before a start-up. Deciding to rear animals on a farm takes immense dedication and time. Schools need to plan out staff training and money to make the needed purchases. Thomas also said that careful consideration should be taken when choosing what barn animals to implement. For example, the school’s cattle need a lot more attention and maintenance than the small lambs, which children love petting and hand-feeding from a bottle.
For Superintendant Ebert in Sturgis, these are all aspects the superintendent has likely regarded. In the school board meeting, Ebert did mention that there would be barriers to work through if the barn animal project moves forward. The biggest hurdle would be to get through city ordinances which state that certain animals are not allowed within city limits. Ebert seemed to be ahead of the game on this obstacle, as he mentioned already discussing the matter with the city’s manager. Similarly, Ebert mentioned other hurdles such as animal safety, after-hours and summer care, training, and then of course the biggest barrier: funding.
“I’m confident that within our district, within our community, within our partnerships, we can get this done,” Ebert said. Furthermore, the superintendent mentioned that the initiative always gets support from parents and community members. It seems nearly everyone in the town of Sturgis is on board with the endeavor to bring barn animals into the middle school. But it also seems the district’s biggest hurdle will be coming up with the hefty funds needed to house them.