Printed on: November 19, 2013

Hands-on learning

Fox Hollow first-graders take turns 'milking' plastic cow

By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
kjohnson@postregister.com

Maggie, a life-size replica of a dairy cow, was an eye-catching addition to the hallway at Fox Hollow Elementary School.

As children trailed by Nov. 14, some took in her size with huge grins while others only gawked.

Alane Holm's first-grade class was extra lucky. Her 25 students were one of three classes that got to "milk" the cow. The students learned the ins and outs of how cows are milked at a dairy farm and topped off the experience by making real butter out of whipping cream.

Sebastian Mendoza, 6, squatted below the plastic cow that was filled with water rather than milk. He grabbed ahold and squeezed firmly. A stream of water jetted out and Sebastian grinned.

"I'd like to milk a real (cow) and see how it's really done," he said.

The dairy fun was part of the Idaho Farm Bureau's "Ag in the Classroom," a 3-year-old program that's made stops at roughly eight elementary schools this year with plans to visit 10 more. The program's goal is to add agriculture into classrooms, representative Leslie Risenmay said. Dairy is one of two areas the program teaches.

The other is grain, in which students top off the learning by making pancakes. Ultimately, the Farm Bureau hopes to add other programs, including forestry and potatoes, Risenmay said.

"Kids just really love the hands-on element," she said. "We don't use real cows because that would be a little messy. They're not potty-trained."

Maggie was a Holstein, Risenmay explained to the students, and, if she was real, would eat up to 55 pounds of food each day. The kids shrieked.

Six-year-old Ayden Boyer was impressed to hear about cow appetites and their size. He said he didn't realize how big they were until he saw Maggie.

"I like cows because they're strong and they're tough," he said.

Taylor Parker, 7, said forming the butter -- which took solid form as the result of vigorous shaking -- was the best part of the day.

"I just think it's fun to shake it," he said. "And then we get to eat it after we make it."

Kiley Harris, 7, said her favorite part of the activity was simply learning. She listened intently as Risenmay explained how excess milk from cow is used. Her eyes lit up when Risenmay mentioned Reed's Dairy, which turns the milk from its cows into ice cream.

"I think I'd like to try milk straight from the cow," Kiley said. "I also think it's pretty cool how the cows can make a lot of different things."

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.