Although school won't be in session for another month or so, a group of students from the Jim Thorpe Area School District were given a surprise lesson July 13. And against all odds, they seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.
Christi Graver, the Penn State Cooperative Extension of Carbon County's summer assistant, visited the Jim Thorpe Day Camp at Memorial Park to provide some insight on farm animals. The presentation was part of the Cooperative Extension's "Know Farming, Know Food" series of educational lectures.
"I think it's really important that local kids know where their food comes from," Graver said.
A junior animal science major at Penn State's University Park campus, Graver has been a member of 4-H since she was 8 years old, and relishes any opportunity to share her knowledge.
"I live on a farm, and I raise all the animals that I show the campers," she said. "This is my passion, it just comes easy to me."
For the past three weeks, Graver has been organizing these informative lectures, devoting each to a specific type of animal. While previous editions have dealt with cows and chickens, the most recent concerned sheep and goats.
Through the use of homemade posters and diagrams, Graver educated the gathered children on a broad range of topics, including the cuts of meat each animal is comprised of and the history of various breeds. She also actively engaged her audience, quizzing them on various animal-related terminology.
"My goal is to show them some things they don't usually think of," Graver said.
Related to this objective was a special segment devoted to goat and sheep by-products, which range from common beauty products such as Emory boards and shampoo, to dog biscuits and Jell-O.
Towards the end of her visit, Graver supplied the campers with some unusual treats: lamb jerky and goat cheese.
"In the past couple of weeks, I've brought beef jerky and ice cream, foods that go with the animals I talk about," she said. "I'm interested to see how the kids react to today's snacks."
Judging by the opinions voiced by the campers post-sampling, lamb jerky isn't all that bad. But area residents are wise to avoid goat cheese in the immediate future.
Of course, there's one thing children love more than chewing animals; petting them. In this department, Graver did not disapoint, as she brought with her Cinnamon the goat and Orphan the lamb, two of her family's farm animals.
Next week's lecture, the last in the series, will be devoted to fruits and vegetables, and campers will have the opportunity to sample some farm-fresh produce.