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Students build connections during Heart of Gold Livestock Show

Students build connections during Heart of Gold Livestock Show

The second annual "Heart of Gold Livestock Show" was held Sept. 27 at the Crook County Fairgrounds in Sundance. Partnering on this event were Crook County 4-H, Bearlodge-Sundance FFA, Whitcomb FFA, Devils Tower FFA and Crook County School District programs.

Participants from programs in the Sundance Elementary, Sundance Secondary, Moorcroft K-8 and Moorcroft High School received hands-on experience in showing livestock and the care of a variety of animals.

The idea for the livestock show came from the National Association of Extension Youth Development Professionals annual conference attended by 4-H Educator, Sara Fleenor. The show was a great way to use animals to encourage connections with students not typically involved in 4-H and FFA.

Partnering with the district schools, students were able to work with older mentors from 4-H and FFA. The members of these youth organizations were able to teach the district students how to move safely around animals, how to brush them and get them show ready and, finally, to show the animal. Horse, cattle, sheep, goat, chicken, rabbit, swine and dog projects were highlighted during the event.

Students rotated through 11 stations of animals and then, for a finale, had an animal parade through the barn. In addition, a team of horses and wagon was on hand to take students on a wagon ride around the fairgrounds.

Over 100 students throughout the district participated in the fall event. Several 4-H volunteers and Bearlodge-Sundance FFA Alumni members also assisted with providing animals and set-up.

The Sundance Secondary advanced foods class provided side dishes and desserts, as well as served the students lunch. Jake Krell prepared and served steak kabobs as part of his eighth grade academic readiness business plan.

Sundance Secondary life skills students set the event hall and prepared centerpieces. Crook County Cattlewomen donated the beef for lunch, Sundance State Bank provided participant shirts, Pinnacle Bank served lunch to participants, while Decker's Market of Sundance provided the meat and kabob ingredients.

Studies have shown many benefits that come from youth spending time with livestock. An article published by The University of Minnesota Extension highlights some of these benefits.

For example, training and working with livestock can help youth gain the lifelong skill of patience and compassion. Youth learn how to nonverbally communicate with animals and demonstrate respect for livestock by providing them with the best care possible.

Students learn how to actively make decisions that will not only benefit themselves, but also the livestock at hand. The Heart of Gold Livestock Show greatly impacted students by helping them gain skills that they will carry with them far beyond school. Other traits taught through showing livestock are responsibility, competition, financial knowledge, leadership and relationships.

Sundance Elementary teacher, Kim Eymer, said, "This was such a fun opportunity learning about animals and connecting older students with younger students." While Jameson Fleenor, Bearlodge-Sundance FFA President said, "The Heart of Gold Show was a great experience because we got to see how much enjoyment the animals brought the kids." Leadership is a core foundation for youth development programs, and the 4-H and FFA members were able to put these life skills into action during this event.

Cross-age peer mentoring is a technique that pairs high school age students with elementary students, and is proven to work well for the students on both ends of the age spectrum. A 2019 article by Heather Myers for "Teaching Strategies", indicated that studies have found positive outcomes for both sets of students.

For the mentees, they gain a connection to the school and peers, improved behavior and attitude and improve feelings of competency and accomplishment, as well as a positive outcome on grades and academic achievement. For the mentors, benefits of this technique include improvement in self-esteem, empathy, intrapersonal communication and conflict resolution.

Jessee Driskill, Devils Tower FFA President, said "I really enjoyed being able to make a difference in the student's day. To see all of the smiles on their faces really showed me how easy it is to make a difference in someone else's life."

This event is planned to continue next fall. If you are interested in participating or learning more about Crook County 4-H, please call 283-1192 or stop by the University of Wyoming Extension Office at 309 E Cleveland St., Sundance.

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