Virtual field trip to a sheep ranch

Students learn about pets, animals in elective course

Big picture
December 15, 2020

When Henley Middle School students logged into their Pet World class last week, a local sheep ranch appeared on their computer screens.

School counselor Stacey Ramirez, who grew up on her parent’s ranch off Hill Road, was their virtual tour guide and guest lecturer, introducing students to the ranch’s newest residents – lambs. Ramirez, using her smartphone and Zoom, showed students the barn with ewes and their babies, talking about the essential care needed to raise sheep. She then showed them pasture, and continued the lesson, taking questions via the chat feature on the Zoom app.

“It’s not what they’re used to, but when we can do a Zoom trip like this it engages them and connects them,” Ramirez said. “It’s nice to have this format where they can see things in real time.”

The Pet World class, taught by Henley teacher Brian Palmer, is one of several electives offered as part of the school’s curriculum. With some ingenuity, the classes have continued under the district’s distance learning model. Other exploratory classes offered this year include engineering, medical detectives, and introduction to hunting.

“They’re getting classes that relate to their lives,” Ramirez said. “These are the classes that keep them going, keep them engaged, and give them hope that things can return to normal.”

Because of spiking COVID-19 metrics in the county, all Klamath County School District students are currently doing distance learning from home with their classroom teachers. Classes are conducted virtually through a video conferencing app.

Henley Middle School Principal Kristy Creed said connecting on a more personal level while distance learning is a key to keeping students engaged.

“Students invite us into their homes through a virtual platform, and many times we get to see their specific interests through this very unique lens,” she said. “This allows a chance to have conversations that may not happen during in-person instruction. When students return to the classrooms, we’ll have a better understanding of who they are as individuals.”

The goal of the Pet World exploratory class is to help students identify specific needs of different animals – potential pets – and the importance of ensuring that their lifestyle is compatible with those needs before taking on the responsibility of pet ownership.

“The class is exploratory in nature and continues to evolve,” Palmer said. “We are covering the pets that the students are most interested in. I am attempting to reach out to professionals in the field, or people that have a lot of experience rising particular types of pets, like Mrs. Ramirez, as a way to make the class more engaging and interesting for the students.”

During last week’s two-day virtual lesson about raising sheep, students got to see and meet via their computer screens two friendly miniature donkeys as well as ewes and their babies.

“They are definitely learning a lot right now,” Ramirez said as she walked around the pasture. “We just need to be inventive.”