Call it a nice send-off to the end of the school year.
Escalante Middle School eighth graders this week cuddled young lambs swaddled in towels as part of a veterinary science class.
The seven orphaned lambs were born at J. Paul Brown’s sheep ranch near Ignacio and were brought this month to live mostly at the school, said Lu Boren, veterinary science teacher. Students visited the ranch to observe pregnancy testing, sheep shearing and the lambs being born, she said.
Raising the lambs “captures the heart of the whole school,” Boren said.
Students selected individual lambs to care for, she said.
They were charged with every aspect of the lambs’ care, including feeding and diapering the lambs, a necessary precaution while the creatures are indoors, she said. As a result of the constant handling, the soft, curious lambs relax fully in the arms of their young caretakers.
“They will snuggle right up on your chest,” said Lauren Dukart, 13.
The lambs help Boren teach important lessons about agriculture and veterinary care.
Many of the students who take the elective class are interested in pursuing veterinary science. The class helps students decide if the career is right for them, Boren said.
Eighth grader Sydney Riggenbach, 14, said she is among those interested in becoming a veterinarian and enjoyed dissecting digestive and reproductive systems in class.
With the end of school today, the lambs will be moved to a caretaker’s home who will finish raising them and sell them for possible slaughter.
Riggenbach said she’s OK with the lamb’s final fate.
“At least we got to take good care of them,” she said.
Boren said the sale of the lambs is an important part of teaching students the basics of agriculture.
“The kids in my class deal better with that than some of the adults in this school,” she said.
Caring for the lambs helped students learn about animal digestive systems. If sheep are overfed, it can be fatal, Boren said.
Students also learned a bit about death after one lamb died from unknown causes.
As part of the learning experience, students tried to determine what happened to it, Boren said.
She thought it would be better for students to see and study the lamb, rather than having it disappear, she said.
The students use bandannas to distinguish the lambs from one another; the deceased lamb’s batman bandanna has been retired and is now on display in the classroom, Boren said.