BIG HORN — With lambing season in full swing, students at Big Horn Elementary School visited a local ranch last week to study newborn lambs.
All 30 BHE fourth-graders visited the Little Ranch near Leiter as part of a project-based learning exercise. The students traveled every afternoon Monday through Thursday and weighed and measured newborn lambs for about an hour. The students are in the process of analyzing their data points by creating line plots and other related projects.
BHE fourth-grade teacher Lamont Clabaugh came up with the idea as a way to get students out of the classroom to do some hands-on learning.
“So many times, they just sit and do worksheets or problems and they don’t get to apply them or understand how to use them in the real world,” Clabaugh said. “I think it’s just an opportunity for them to get out and use those skills that are being taught in the classroom.”
Clabaugh is friends with the Littles, who own the ranch and were more than willing to let the students visit. Clabaugh split the students into seven groups, each of which weighed and measured about 10 lambs every day.
The fourth-graders recently finished a unit on measurement, so the trip put into action what they had just learned. Because the ranchers were going through lambing season, there were around 50 newborns every day for students to measure and weigh.
Clabaugh brought three digital scales, so the students put the lambs in buckets, which they then placed on a scale. They measured the lambs’ height with a meter stick.
The project-based learning incorporated aspects of math, science and technology.
Clabaugh had students fill out the weights and heights on iPads using Google Classroom at the ranch, so no paper and pencil were involved.
Before venturing to the ranch, Clabaugh discussed how to handle the lambs and explained the sheep-shearing process, which took place a few weeks earlier.
Clabaugh said a few parents accompanied the group Tuesday through Thursday. The expeditions went as well as he hoped.
“It was cold and muddy one day, but the kids didn’t slow down at all; they just dove right in,” Clabaugh said.
BHE fourth-graders Maui Orum and Kyndra Bellika said the experience was a bit weird at first but was otherwise exciting and educational.
The two students had never touched a lamb or been to a sheep ranch before. Some students saw ewes giving birth and then held the lambs minutes after they were born.
Orum and Bellinka enjoyed feeding the lambs, whose small size surprised them. They mentioned the thrill of seeing a rare group of black sheep as well. Naturally, the ranch was a bit dirty, and Orum was on the receiving end of an unfortunate incident while holding a lamb.
“The littlest one in the whole bunch pooped on me,” Orum said.
The students are now working on line plots — which show the frequency of different weights and heights among lambs — and graphs that show how much weight each lamb gained every day. The students hope to present their finished products to the Littles and report back statistics like the average birthweight of males compared to females.
Other than some initial nerves and dirtiness that accompanies ranch life, Clabaugh was pleased with the outcome and his students seemed to relish the unique learning opportunity.