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Students Raise Cattle for Class and Food

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By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Good food is not only delicious, but can play an important factor in student's academic success.

And while some schools may be serving their students hamburgers and sloppy joes with mystery meat pink slime, students at a high school in Hagerstown, Ind., won't have to worry about that.

Rather than the meat coming from some nameless farm hundreds of miles away, slaughtered and packaged at another nameless meat-packing factory somewhere else, students at Hagerstown Jr.-Sr. High School will know exactly where their meat is coming from:

Their school campus.

No, the school isn't a farm school like this Kansas elementary school.

Instead, it's developing plans to raise cattle as part of an agricultural class, reports the Palladium-Item.

And yes, some of those bulls will be slaughtered and butchered to be used in hamburgers served in the school's cafeteria.

Delicious.

"It doesn't get any more hands-on than this," Nathan Williamson, an agriculture teacher at the Hagerstown school, told the Palladium-Item.

"Part of the end goal of this is to make it as much of a whole-school activity as possible," he said, adding that students will be responsible for the livestock's care, as well as completing various projects required for the animal science and agriculture mechanics classes.

The idea of schools having a farm or garden isn't exactly a novelty, but this Hagerstown high school's program to raise cattle for agriculture science and food may be something unique.

In some schools throughout the country, gardens and small farms are being built as an outdoor learning opportunity, and the produce is also harvested to be served in the school cafeteria. Other schools are participating in the Meatless Mondays campaign, and one school in Los Angeles even went further by going all vegetarian.

And it's not just rural schools, or schools with the acreage to build and sustain a garden that are in on the school farm movement.

In the District of Columbia, about 80 schools have their own school gardens where they grow vegetables to be used in the schools' cafeterias, while offering educational opportunities in food ecology and nutrition education.

(If you live in the D.C. area, you can even participate in a DC school garden tour with a local bike shop.)

In Detroit, students also learn, through school gardens, about different plants, how to care for produce, and the various ways to use them in food.

Health plays an important factor in student academic success, but good health is about more than just getting schools to make time for recess and physical activity breaks for its students.

Good health is also about adequate nutrition and good food.

Initiatives like Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign and recent rule changes to bring healthier food options to school lunches are just some of the ways students are being taught about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.

Photo: Hereford bull/US Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia

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