"Ranch Days" is a special program for several hundred Routt County fourth-graders, who will each spend a day at one of five ranches, seeing firsthand how they operate and learning the source of many of their daily comforts.
"I think it's a start for the students to see these real-world connections. It's a leap now, but to know it's here in Routt County is fantastic," Strawberry Park teacher Maggie Glueck said.
The day is organized by the Tread of Pioneers Museum, with help from community members.
"It's about where food comes from and how it's made," Colorado State University Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said. "We hope they're making some connection and will think about the cheese they eat tonight for dinner and the sweater they put on."
The day is hands-on, so students touch fibers and pet animals, all close up and personal.
"Cows make more than just milk or beef," said Strawberry Park student Laura Riley, who was visiting the Harmony Ranch.
Last week, the students were visited by local ranchers and experts and learned about traditional clothing, water rights and yaks, as a lead-up to their first-hand experience. On Tuesday, schools from Hayden and Steamboat Springs, including the Christian Heritage School, split up between the Harmony Ranch, Wolf Run Ranch, the Carpenter Ranch and the Monger Ranch. Soroco students visit the Knotts Ranch on Wednesday.
Students had about four activities to do, such as watching horseshoeing, spinning, learning about habitat and wildlife, learning about a cashmere goat, roping a post and seeing the ins and outs of the ranches.
"We're giving them practical experience and showing them what we do," Scott Flower of Wolf Run Ranch said. "It's fun for them to understand the different things we do. You've got to be a veterinarian, a carpenter, know about irrigation and fixing fences."
While years ago, the county was a completely ranching community, that has changed and only a handful of these students live in working, commercial ranches. That doesn't change Routt County's heritage and the importance for these children to know about it, however.
"It's part of our heritage," Mucklow said. "Routt County is about agriculture, mining and skiing."
While the students they loved the animals, they were impressed at the effort it takes to make things run smoothly on a ranch. At Wolf Run, some said that running a ranch just might be too much work.
"It's a job that's much harder than it looks," Strawberry Park student Michael Lyon said. "He has to take care of all the animals. You might have to work 24 hours a day."
Laura Holthausen said some things like roping horses would definitely be a challenge.
"I got a taste of it when I tried to rope the post," she said. "It's a lot of responsibility."
- To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.