The COVID-19 pandemic has upheaved people’s daily lives, and with schools introducing online learning or smaller classes for the new year, this change is especially apparent in children’s school days.
This year, The Dairy Alliance worked to quickly adapt existing programs and create others that allow students to have a sense of normalcy. Many students rely on school meals, as they are provided breakfast, lunch, and even supper through some programs. The switch to at-home learning last spring meant children could lose access to nutritious meals. Realizing the impact of students missing meals on their growth and education, The Dairy Alliance created grants to continue meal programs. Working with school nutrition staff to provide meals in-school and at-home through funding for feeding site coolers, in-classroom meal equipment, and additional service lines equipment and signage, students are fueled for each day of learning through continued access to dairy products.
Now, as the pandemic keeps students apart, there’s a new program for students to connect to each other and to the farm during social distancing.
Adopt a Cow, an educational program put on by The Dairy Alliance through Discover Dairy this year, teaches children about agriculture and animal care. Adopt a Cow is a free program available to teachers, homeschool teachers, and advisors for after school programs, library programs, and any agriculture programs. Sign up until October 15, 2020, to adopt a calf for the 2020-2021 school year.
Once the calf is born in November, a new student will occasionally join the class as she grows up to become a dairy cow. An introductory video and kit about the calf and her farm will be sent, with photos of the calf, activity sheets, a PowerPoint, and a suggested lesson that follows Common CORE standards included for students. Students can look forward to two additional updates, which will be sent in January and March before a live chat with the calf and dairy farmer in late spring. Students can also send letters to their calf between check-ins. Through these updates, students will learn agricultural practices, the importance of dairy, and the importance of dairy cows, including what their adopted calf’s name is, when her birthday is, where she lives and how the dairy farmer takes care of her.
Through programs like continued meal programs and Adopt a Cow, though the pandemic continues to disrupt daily life, The Dairy Alliance works to ensure students a sense of normalcy through the tools they need to be successful. Additional programs like virtual dairy farm tours will also begin this year for teachers seeking fun and educational ways to connect students to agriculture, providing plenty of options for the classroom.