By Katelin Herr, School Based Therapist
I started doing Adopt-A-Cow through Discover Dairy last school year because Steelton-Highspire was virtual most of the year. I grew up on a 500-acre dairy farm in Lancaster County so agriculture is always something that has been near and dear to my heart.
In a zoom early into the 2020-2021 school year, one of my kids mentioned that milk came from the store; we had this whole conversation that milk actually comes from cows on a farm. Most of my students at Steelton Elementary have never seen a cow in person, let alone been to a farm. This got my wheels turning. My dad directed me to Discover Dairy, which is an organization with the mission to educate about the dairy industry.
Their Adopt-A-Cow program connects school programs to dairy farms in the area. The dairy farmers and their families update us monthly from October (when the calf is born) through June (end of our school year). For the last two years, my program has been connected to the Zahncroft Family at Zahncroft Dairy in Womelsdorf, PA. Each month, the farm sends me updated pictures, as well as different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities that incorporate the cow’s growing size, what her purpose on the farm will be when she’s older, etc.
I use these activities as hands-on social skills for my kids throughout the month. The coolest part about the program is that every April, the farmers will join on a Zoom session with my kids and the kids can see the adopted calf on screen in real time. The students are able to ask the farmers questions about the cow, dairy farming, or just agriculture in general. It is a really fun learning experience for my kids, and I love sharing this virtual experience with them, given I wouldn’t be able to bring in a live cow to teach them about it.
For me it was a fun way to spice up virtual learning. When we came back full-time face to face this school year, my kids requested we do it again. So, this is how we have Olive this school year. I think it will become a regular part of my programming here at Steelton. The entire building loves asking my kids about Olive.
For more information on the program. (https://www.discoverdairy.com/adopt-a-cow/).