Learning by doing has become a tradition at Lone Grove Schools.
About 30 FFA students partnered with special education students for the annual Ring of Gold event, giving the students a chance to participate in the kind of livestock shows FFA students all have experience with. Special education students got the chance to present animals to the judges, as well as learn to care for them.
Lone Grove Schools Special Education Director Christi Frederick said this year, FFA students added a photo booth area where kids could take photos with animals, along with the petting zoo.
“We have some variety this year,” Frederick said. “We even have some bulldogs and a baby calf.”
FFA students worked together to prepare the arena with clean sawdust, then decorated the building. Frederick said her students learn something new from the event every year.
“We’re on our fourth year now,” Frederick said. “Each year, they’ve learned things about how you lead the animal, how you walk with them.”
Logan Graves, FFA chapter treasurer, said she’s been participating in Ring of Gold since it began four years ago. She said the event gives the visiting students a chance to experience something unique.
“That’s what we’re here for, to let them know they can do anything they want in FFA,” Graves said. “There’s so many possibilities.”
She said people who aren’t involved in FFA often don’t have the full picture. Everyone knows FFA kids work with livestock, she said, but the organization has opportunities for public speaking and leadership as well.
“Even I didn’t really know until I joined FFA,” Graves said.
The FFA students also added a showmanship show to the event, giving special education students who’ve participated in previous years the chance to show the judges what they’ve learned about caring for and handling animals. Graves said the addition went over well.
“We decided on it last minute, but we should definitely keep doing it in the years to come,” Graves said. “They learn every single time they show. So, this shows them what they’ve learned over the few years they’ve been showing.”
Ryan Pieper, a regional accreditation officer with the State Department of Education, returned to Lone Grove for Ring of Gold. He said he happened to visit the school the day of the event last year and made it a point to come back.
“What caught my attention was the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Pieper said. “If you want to look for it, there’s plenty of bad news to be seen in public education. This was, selfishly, an opportunity for me to fill my cup up and see something great going on at a public school.”
He said some students who participated last year returned as FFA members this year.