RIVERSIDE — The parking lot at Riverside Elementary turned into a petting zoo on Thursday, May 23, as the Highland Community High School Ag and FFA students brought their animals and farm equipment to the school for Farm Safety Day.
Cassi Montandon, Ag teacher and FFA Sponsor for Highland, said this is the second year for the event and one students look forward to. She said while other events focus on educating students about the ag industry, this one specifically focuses on teaching students about safety practices in ag.
“I think it’s really important that we start educating kids at a young age about animal and farm safety and get them familiar with animals and with farm equipment to minimize injuries in the future,” she said.
Montandon said the large majority of elementary students who come through have never had personal experiences with animals or farm equipment and this offers a learning experience for them. It also offers a learning experience for the high-schoolers, she said, because it gives them a chance to get brushed up on their safety skills to answer questions for students.
“It keeps them on par on their safety skills,” she said. “I think it’s just a good place for them to be responsible ... Their knowing their animal (and) their knowing their limits.”
Highland sophomore Madison Thomann brought her cow, Jax, for farm safety day. What she enjoyed most about the day was getting to interact with students and answer their questions. Having grown up on a farm, many of these practices are second nature to her but not for every student she interacts with.
“They get to learn a lot of new things and some kids come up to me and are terrified, but this just shows them that they’re not going to hurt you,” she said of letting the kids interact with the animals.
Bryce Waters, a junior at Highland and FFA President, said he enjoys having an opportunity to promote FFA to younger students because it gives them a new kind of learning experience they may not get in the classroom.
“It promotes FFA (so) when they get up there to that age, they’ll just know and remember it from back in the day,” he said. “That’s what we do it for.”
Highland Ag teacher and FFA Sponsor Duane Van Winkel, said he is glad the FFA students are able to provide a learning experience directly to the elementary students because he feels students are not as in touch with ag as they were in his day.
“There are so many kids who are so far removed from the farm. When I was growing up, it was you were one generation away from going to Grandpa’s farm and at least seeing the animals and that sort of thing,” he said. “I think it’s important that they understand a little bit more about how livestock is handled and treated. Sometimes agriculture gets misrepresented so to get them exposed to some of these things ... makes a positive experience.”
He said the hands-on element is incredibly valuable for both sets of students because the elementary students get to learn about animals and the high-schoolers get to put into practice and teach about the animal safety techniques they have learned over the years.
“Everybody is a textural learner to some degree. Getting that exposure I think helps them relate to the animals a little bit better and it’s something they’ll remember for a long time,” he said. “When you take high school kids on the safety side and have them talk about safety, it really reiterates in their brains the importance of safety and it’s a good reminder as they’re growing up.”