Ag. Program Brings Petting Zoo to Preschool

The Recorder, May 25th, 2016, by Tom Relihan. “Ahh! A duck!” shouted Academy of Early Learning preschooler Anilah Rosario as the large waterfowl quacked in her face when she ventured too close to its cage.

Though the loud, unexpected noise gave her a jolt, she’d changed her tune once Jim Lyons, co-owner of Winterberry Farm in Colrain, had extracted the duck and held it for Rosario and her classmates to stroke.

“I touched it’s beak!” she exclaimed.

Lyons and fellow co-owner Jill Horton-Lyons gave Rosario and the other students at the preschool at 1 Place Terrace in Greenfield got a chance to get up-close and personal with the duck, as well as some sheep and chickens Wednesday as part of the school’s agriculture unit.

Principal Jake Toomey said the program is in its second year and brings social studies, science and math together under one common theme.
“Teachers have been doing a unit on farms in their classrooms,” he said. “They’ve been taking field trips to farms, reading stories about farms, learning about what animals do and that they’re not just pets, and what farmers do.”

One classroom even created a life-size cardboard tractor as a farm-themed art project.

Horton-Lyons said she and Lyons were asked to bring some of the farm animals to the school last year by member of the school’s parent association.

“They thought it was going to be like a ‘pet-the-bunny,’ but we brought sheep and fleece and showed how to make yarn,” Horton-Lyons said. “We brought a scarf and sweater so they could see the final product.”

She said it’s important for students in a more urban district like Greenfield to learn about farming and where their food, clothing and shelter comes from when they might not otherwise have that opportunity.

“It’s a special joy to us to do programs like this with kids who might not be exposed to agricultural very often,” she said.