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Cows go to school in dairy on wheels

Children revel in chance to meet dairy livestock, learn about source of milk


For the Capital Press

PASO ROBLES, Calif. -- Students at Bauer Speck and Virginia Peterson elementary schools learned about dairies last week when a cow and calf came to school.

They were accompanied by the California Dairy Council Mobile Dairy Classroom when it visited the Central Coast of California.

Mishael Tarbell, one of four instructors using six mobile dairies, travels to schools throughout California five days a week so students can learn more about cows and where dairy products come from.

One of the most surprising things that Tarbell finds as she visits with students is "that they don't know that the milk they find in the grocery store comes from a real animal."

The mobile dairies reach more than 300,000 elementary students each year. The curriculum includes:

* The basic anatomy of a cow, the food it eats to stay healthy and the milking process.

* Agriculture's role in supplying food.

* Milk and dairy foods' contributions to a healthful diet.

One of the students, Caitlyn Andrus, said she was surprised by the size of the cow. "I can't believe a cow is that tall!"

"One thing I learned was that all cows have four sections of one stomach," fourth-grader Sam Bradley said. "I really liked when our class got to pet the little, cute, furry calf!"

"I learned there are so many dairy products," said Emma Danielson, another student. "It is so interesting because a cow has one stomach and four parts and a cow chews their food two times."

The mobile dairy was created in the 1930s by Clarence Michel, of Edgemar Farms, and the Dairy Council of California. Michel would travel weekly to Los Angeles-area schools in a truck built to accommodate a cow. The goal was to teach children how milk and dairy foods are produced.

Since then, the program has expanded into a statewide effort.

"The mobile dairy unit helps to teach kids about the importance of milk consumption and hopefully will encourage kids to choose a nutritious milk product instead of a sugar-sweetened beverage," Vanessa Stringham, a health education specialist from San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, said at the school presentation.


For more information on the Mobile Dairy Classroom program, go to www.dairycouncilofca.org or call 877-324-7901.


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