Bringing the ranch to school

Brixner Junior High agriculture exploratory students caring for orphaned calf

Brixner Junior High School has a special guest living on campus: An orphaned calf named Beau.

Students in the school’s junior agriculture class are bottle-feeding and caring for Beau as part of a six-week exploratory program taught by math teacher Veronica Turner, who also raises cattle on a small ranch east of Klamath Falls.

As class began Thursday, Aubrey Pita, Kaylynn Garrett and Brittany Morris headed to the school’s kitchen to mix a special formula in a calf-sized baby bottle. A few students volunteered for cleaning duty, and two other students refilled the water bucket in the calf’s pen.

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Beau, now a month old, has been at Brixner for the past two weeks. The ag students, with the help of Turner, have bottle fed him three times a day and taken care of his needs.

Tabitha Bartlett is among those who have taken a lead role in caring for the calf.

“This is my first time taking care of a cow or any type of livestock,” she said. “It’s really cool. I decided to help because I wanted the calf to have someone he’s comfortable around. Getting him comfortable with us has been the hardest part.”

Junior agriculture is just one of several exploratory classes offered at Brixner. Exploratories, which provide a way for students to explore interests outside their regular academic courses, are part of the curriculum in junior high schools in the Klamath County School District. The offerings vary, depending on the interests and expertise of teachers at each of the schools. At Brixner this term, students could choose from a wide variety of options including basketball, drama, geography, small engines, archery, and building solar- and wind-powered cars.

In junior ag, students learn basic animal husbandry as well as different aspects of agriculture and ranching. Students in the spring term exploratory will hatch and raise baby chicks. This is Turner’s second year offering agriculture as an exploratory course option.

“When I first started doing this, it was amazing how many kids didn’t know where their milk came from,” Turner said. “I think it’s important for them to get a good understanding of where the food they buy in the store comes from and how it is produced.”

Last week, the class spent an afternoon visiting Turner’s cattle ranch near Crystal Springs and Brixner Junior High School Principal Leslie Garrett’s sheep ranch off Hill Road.

At the Garrett ranch, students helped their principal inoculate baby lambs, and fed and groomed her donkeys. The class then traveled to Turner’s cattle ranch, where her horses greeted the students, welcoming their hands-on curiosity. But the cattle – some of whom had just given birth – were a bit more wary of the group of young teenagers. Students were able to get close to a day-old calf – and listen to its mother scold it for not following her directions.

Seventh-grader Aubrey Pita has always wanted to be a veterinarian, and she had an opportunity to experience what that might be like when she helped inoculate a baby lamb last week.

“It was fascinating and awesome,” she said. “I really like animals, and I like learning new stuff.”

Garrett enjoys sharing her passion for sheep ranching with her junior high school students.

“Students visiting my farm experience a part of my life outside school,” she said. “The hands on experience when they get to vaccinate the lambs and band their tails gives them the opportunity to really experience what a rancher does — something they will never forget.”