MUSCATINE — The sheep, cows, goats and other animals from the Agriculture Center received a few extra visitors this week, thanks to the Elementary School SPARK (Summer Program for the Arts, Recreation & Knowledge) program.

On Tuesday and Thursday of this week, the Ag. Center and the Muscatine FFA Chapter welcomed two groups from the afternoon kindergarten enrichment classes. The children learned about various animals up close.

“Here, we put on different demonstrations for the kids, and then we walk them around and they get to learn about different livestock,” Grant Van Nice, current president of the Muscatine FFA Chapter, said.

This included a brief encounter with some baby goats, a lesson on sheep and cows, a demonstration on how to ride a horse, and even a chance to say hello to a chinchilla. Both the Tuesday and Thursday groups ended their day at the Ag. Center with a fun hayrack ride around the facility.

“They get to see and interact with the animals, and it’s just a really fun and interactive experience for the kids,” Van Nice said.

Emily Puck, who teaches both third grade and kindergarten in the SPARK program, already had plenty of experience with farm animals as someone who has taught on a farm and was in 4-H. She was thrilled to see her students have the chance to learn in such a memorable way.

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“Some of these kids might never get the chance to see or feel these animals,” Puck said. “This is just a lifetime experience for these kids. It’s just such a good hands-on experience for them.”

Van Nice agreed, adding that it is important to teach kids about agriculture, and inspire some of them to consider it as a career option.

“It’s just good to inform, and it’s such a great program for kids because they get to come and learn and experience the animals and the farm side of living in a city like Muscatine,” Van Nice said.

“Personally, I like seeing the happiness that it brings them and how excited they get when they go up to pet the baby goats or the other animals,” Van Nice said.

With two successful experiences had and a lot of fun memories made, Puck took the time to thank the SPARK program for providing the opportunity for her students.

“(The program) has done great things,” she said. “I also want to give a huge shout-out and thank you to the Ag. Center for also allowing us to come here. I know it’s super close to County Fair time but they were able to squeeze us in, so I’m super happy these kids get this opportunity, because they won’t able to anywhere else.”

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