Cows mooove California students
May/June 2010 California Country magazine
Mobile Dairy Classroom brings cow to campus for hands-on learning.
Many children in California think the food they eat actually grows in a grocery store or brown cows make chocolate milk. With children increasingly removed from farm production and agriculture, it may come as no surprise that they understand so little about where their food comes from.
One statewide educational program aims for this to change. Dairy Council of California’s Mobile Dairy Classroom brings a live cow to elementary school campuses to give kids a hands-on lesson on the important role agriculture plays in their lives.
The program, called Mobile Dairy Classroom, originated in Los Angeles County in the 1930s and was developed to expose primarily urban children to agriculture. Over the years as even rural children began to become disconnected from their local farms, the program expanded to include both urban and rural areas.
Supported by both dairy processors and producers and offered to California elementary schools for free, Mobile Dairy Classroom teaches children about the origin of milk and the family of milk products, milk’s nutritional value and its role in bone health, as well as the basic anatomy of a cow, information on the food it eats to stay healthy and the milking process.
Louis and Carol Calcagno, owners of Moon Glow Dairy in Moss Landing, Calif., have been providing cows and calves for the Mobile Dairy Classroom for about 30 years and said they believe the lessons the program teaches are invaluable.
“Many kids would never get an opportunity to see a cow or find out where milk comes from unless Mobile Dairy Classroom got a chance to come to the schools,” she said. “Kids are amazed by the program.”
Efrain Valenzuela, manager of the Mobile Dairy Classroom program, said he is always surprised by the number of children who have never seen a live cow before.
“Children are usually pretty amazed when we show them the milking process and the cow’s role in producing milk and milk products,” he said. “By the end of a presentation, students really do walk away with a closer connection to their local agricultural community and they understand the contribution the local farmers and farm animals are making.”
Mobile Dairy Classroom visits more than 400,000 children a year at elementary schools and agriculture days throughout the state. Dairy Council of California currently has six instructors and assembly trailers, each of which transports a live cow and calf – which are provided by local farmers – to each presentation.
“Children definitely leave knowing something about farming, agriculture and nutrition they did not know before,” said Valenzuela.
According to one student at Norris Elementary School in Bakersfield, Calif., “it is weird how cows have no top teeth and a cow’s color doesn’t mean that is the type of milk they produce.”
“It’s a simple lesson,” Valenzuela said, “but one worth teaching if kids learn how their food gets from the farm to the table.”
For more information about Mobile Dairy Classroom or to find out how to schedule a presentation for your area school, call 916-263-3560 or visit www.dairycouncilofca.org.