Ag Science students at Pierce High School do more than study science.
They experience the principles of science as they apply to producing agricultural products. Most live births at the Ag Science laboratory commonly referred to as the school farm, occur early in the morning before school so the students often see the newborns and examine the placenta.
On this occasion as instructor George Green was feeding the flock of ewes the students use to study and apply the principles of biology and animal science he noticed a ewe that was in labor and beginning the birth process.
Having planned to study the body systems at this time of year Green immediately changed the lesson plan to include a trip to the school farm where students were able to watch what was, for most of them, their first live birth.
As other classes were directed to the “farm” another ewe went into labor and after two class periods the animal science class determined that the ewe must be having difficulty.
Most mature females delivering their second or more lambs deliver within an hour of the onset of hard labor. The students were amazed as Mr. Green applied enough pressure to extend the protruding forelegs into the birth canal relieving a condition referred to as shoulder lock in the livestock industry. Shepherds and cowboys commonly solve this and other fetal presentation problems in the pastures of our nation.
The students couldn’t contain their excitement as many of them whipped out their forbidden cell phones to photograph or record the assisted birth.
Miguel Alcaraz, a senior exclaimed, “this is so cool” while class elatedly watched the newborn search for his balance and stand to nurse for the first time.
Carmen Lugardo who came to Arbuckle from Los Angeles and had never been in an Ag class shared “this is so much fun I never knew how all of this worked”. The anatomy and physiology lessons suddenly became more relevant and interesting because of their hands on engagement in the birth of lambs.
The next day the students in the Ag Biology class were found examining the placenta or ‘after-birth’ in the laboratory.
Senior Jerry Mendez remarked “Now I can understand how nutrients flow from a mother through the umbilical cord into the fetus while still in the womb”.
The class learned that in humans and expensive thoroughbred race horse doctors and veterinarians carefully examine the after-birth to be sure that none of it is retained in the female to cause infection or interfere with rebreeding the mare.
Just days before, the students in the Ag Science class had been practicing driving in preparation for planting oats at the laboratory to produce feed for the sheep during the summer.
Students learned how to space the planter (known as a grain drill) so it wouldn’t leave skips or overlap while applying seed efficiently. They also learned how to raise and lower the planting tools for turning.
Alex Camuti, a junior who came to Pierce from New York, said, “I have driven a tractor a little bit before but now I understand the safety and efficiency needed to operate Ag equipment.” Junior David Casteneda added, “Now I can be a better worker and get paid more”.
Green, a Ag Science instructor of 29-years at Pierce, says “It is experiences like this that makes me come to work every day.” Ag science students get to learn the principles of science as they apply to real life. A school farm or career technical programs like Ag Science may be a challenge to maintain in these time of budgetary stress and standardized testing, but when you see how students become engaged in the lesson, it is clearly what relevancy in education is all about. In this case education really delivers.”