Kenneth Gautreaux | 2/15/2007 10:39:04 PM
Students at Arlington Preparatory Academy in Baton Rouge are learning both responsibility and life skills through the school’s unique part of the Louisiana 4-H program. In the past two weeks, goats have been born, bulbs have been planted and livestock has been shown at livestock events on the parish and district levels.
Agri-science teacher Avery Sharp oversees the program at the school, which is composed mostly of students with special needs or at-risk students. Sharp says more than 30 students participate in the program through the showing of animals at parish, district and state livestock shows.
"Most of them have never been around any kind of animals or plants, to speak of before, so when they get here, they thrive in it because they’re interested in it," Sharp said.
One student, Stephen St. Cyr, recently won the best-of-show for a cockerel standard chicken. Steven is autistic, but when he is around his chicken, the happiness is evident through his expressions, according to Sharp.
Sharp says the program has taught the students responsibility because they are accountable for feeding the animals on a daily basis. The students must determine the proper amount of feed for the animals and make sure the animals are properly watered.
Principal Margot Morgan-Forbes sees the benefits of the program.
"It provides extensive hands-on learning for the students. In many ways, the children are the parents of their animals giving them a real life experience," Morgan-Forbes said.
Not many students will also get to experience the birth of an animal as part of their curriculum. In the last week of January, four baby goats were born to the herd at Arlington. The students take great pride in their animals and give them colorful names such as Cadillac (a goat) and Mayonnaise (a cow).
The school has approximately 80 students, and nearly half participate in either the school’s 4-H program or in FFA. Some students will be showing this week (Feb. as part of the LSU AgCenter’s State Livestock Show.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant universities and is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Its purpose is to help young people develop skills and knowledge that will benefit them, their families and their communities throughout their lives.
In addition to livestock projects, 4-H’ers participate in a variety of community service activities and learn through projects that cover a broad range from computers to consumer education and food and fitness to forestry.
For example, at Arlington, Sharp oversaw a project in which the students constructed and sold bouquets for Valentine’s Day. Later this spring, the students will be conducting a plant sale to raise funds for their club.
"We have a greenhouse, and we have plants growing right now for the upcoming plant sale," Sharp said.
Sharp says another activity that the students seem to enjoy is growing their own vegetables in a garden located on the school grounds. He says it gives them a sense of accomplishment in seeing vegetables form from the seeds they planted in the ground and from their caretaking of the garden.