First came the grant that paid for the rabbits and the supplies to build their hutches, then came the hutches that South Lenoir High School students built with supplies the grant bought, then came the rabbits to live in the hutches. Systematically, as is its style, Pink Hill Elementary School added another feature to its “farm.”
“We’re going to use the rabbit droppings as fertilizer to put in the garden and we’re going to try to breed them to pay for the upkeep of feeding them and watering them and keeping the pens updated,” said Chris Radford, an exceptional children’s teacher whose Bright Ideas grant award from Tri-County EMC allowed Pink Hill to expand its hands-on, ag-based education initiative.
Pink Hill already has experience in creating this loop of sustainability. The chicks students hatch in their classroom study of embryology go to the chicken coop behind the school and the eggs the chickens lay are sold to pay for feed. In a small garden, the result of another grant award, the school grows herbs and greens the chickens like to eat.
Like the chicken coop and greenhouse and the aquaponics operation and the vegetable and flower beds and bee hive – all the product of grant awards and donations – the rabbits will be used to augment lessons of the classroom in a way students can experience up close.
That hands-on technique is particularly successful with the EC students Radford and Amy Taylor teach. Their students have been taking care of the chicken coop for a while and have started doing the same for the rabbits.
“The EC classrooms come out here and feed and water them, give them hay, all that good stuff,” Radford said. “It shows them responsibility, how to take care of an animal. It gives them good socialization skills – they like to talk to the animals – and they work together.”
Radford’s grant extended the learning opportunity to the construction and carpentry classes Frank Emory teaches at South Lenoir, where the hutches were built.
“This was a project within a project,” Emory said. “We’ve got something going on every period and we had the opportunity to work with Mr. Radford on his grant and do the rabbit hutches. All three of the classes worked on them.”
Giving the rabbits a place to live gave the high school students experience in design and building. “We started from the infant stage of finding a design, then moved into the actual building,” Emory said. “They had to measure and cut and figured the angles. They worked with different materials, which is all part of the class. We all had a part in it.”
If the four rabbits – two does and two bucks – have bunnies, they will be offered “for a donation” to people who want to keep them as pets. The Holland Lop breed selected by Radford is small and sweet tempered and popular as a pet.