“Who is wise? He who learns from all men,” Ben Zoma, 1st century Jewish sage
Name four types of sheep.
What are male and female rabbits called?
What color eggs do chickens with red earlobes lay?
These were three of the multitude of questions on the four-page worksheet my granddaughter, Selam, pulled from her backpack as we meandered through the National Western Stock Show with her fourth grade class. Pencil in hand, Selam was determined to complete the entire questionnaire. I was no help; I couldn’t answer even one question.
We approached a woman standing in front of pen filled with lambs. “Merino, Hampshire, Suffolk, Shetland,” she recited when we asked about sheep. Selam bent down, balanced the paper on her knee and wrote the names as the woman spelled them.
Tramping through slush and mud, we moved outside to the stockyards to watch dogs herd cattle as a trainer whistled commands.
“Mrs. K, do you know what male and female rabbits are called?” Selam asked another parent chaperone. After watching the cattle for a few minutes, my granddaughter had returned to the worksheet.
“Males are bucks and females are does, just like deer,” the mom said. “I raised them for awhile.” Selam recorded the answer and moved to the next question.
“And what about chickens with red earlobes? What color eggs do they lay?”
“Hmm. I had chickens once. I think they lay white eggs,” the mom replied.
“I don’t think so,” another chaperone chimed in. “I think chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and those with red earlobes lay brown eggs.” She pulled out her cell phone to check on Google. Indeed, she was correct – white earlobes, white eggs; red earlobes, brown eggs.
Wow, I thought, I never even knew that chickens had different colored earlobes, let alone it was related to the color of their eggs. Selam smiled and filled in another blank.
And so it continued:
How many gallons of milk does a cow produce in a day?
How much honey does one hive of bees produce a year?
How many pounds of potatoes does an average person eat in a year?
Even the parents who had grown up on ranches had to do some research on the Internet. It became a battle of rapidly typing fingers on phone keypads to see who could get the answer first and report it to the students. Finally, all her blanks filled in, Selam proudly stuffed the completed questionnaire into her backpack. It was time to board the bus for home.
After walking well over 6,000 steps in my suede boots, (not the best choice of footwear for the excursion), and navigating through the Stock Show crowds with energetic fourth graders, I was physically exhausted. At the same time, I was invigorated. I had discovered more facts about farm animals during this field trip than I had during my entire elementary school education. (I went to school in Brooklyn where farms were scarce, and eggs came from the corner grocery.)
The best part of the day, however, was that I had traveled alongside my granddaughter and shared her enthusiasm for learning. I could “get smart” with a fourth grader.
Answers: 1. Six to eight gallons
2. 20 to 60 pounds
3. 117 pounds (I know. I have trouble believing it too!)