Students at Skyline Elementary reading camp were treated to some special visitors Wednesday morning as a small taste of the Missouri State Fair came to the school.
Several four-legged friends, including an alpaca, goats, a calf and a dog, entertained the students as they learned about the Missouri State Fair.
“Our theme this year for reading camp is the State Fair,” teacher Jeri Perkins said. “Even though the fair is right here in our backyard, we thought it would be neat for the students to learn more about farm animals.”
Although the students have only been at Reading Camp for three days, they have already been doing computer research and reading books about farm life and the animals that live there.
“It’s a good opportunity for the students to see the animals up close,” said Kay Sparks, University of Missouri Extension and Pettis County 4-H representative. “The students have been reading about farm animals and how they contribute to the food supply so we wanted to bring some animals out for them to see firsthand.
“The Pettis County 4-H Livestock show is Sunday and Monday and it is a good opportunity for some of our members to get some hands-on experience working with their livestock as well,” Sparks added.
A big hit with the students was Crossbone the alpaca.
“We rescued Crossbone when he was just a tiny little baby,” owner Jodi Orton told the students. “He was born premature and we had to feed him with a bottle. They have told us that only one in 10 alpacas that little ever survives,” she added.
Orton owns 46 alpacas on her Benton County farm.
“He looks really pretty doesn’t he?” Orton asked one of the classes. “That’s because he just had a haircut. We use his shorn hair to make yarn and then I use that to make hats and scarves to keep others warm when it gets cold.”
Orton said she feels it is important for small children to see her alpacas for multiple reasons.
“They help to teach the children about compassion and caring,” Orton said. “I do a lot of work with special needs children and they learn so much from the alpacas.
“Crossbone is really gentle and so they understand the importance of coming from a safe place and how to care for something that needs to be helped.”
Skyline’s Reading Camp incorporates those same lessons in their program, which has averaged 70 to 80 students per day.
“The camp is designed to offer some extra encouragement for our students,” Brenda Simpson, Title One instructional assistant, said. “We find it’s really important to help them work with the skills they have already learned and to develop additional skills.
“We want them to keep reading over the summer to help them keep their minds in a routine.”
Every week the instructors try to provide a special activity for the students to enjoy. Local author Shani Cooper-Gwaltney will be reading to the children July 17 and the students will enjoy a pizza party on the last day of camp, July 31.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484