ORCA students visit an elk farm and meet all kinds of animals up close and personal

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON CONNECTIONS ACADEMY - Oregon Connections Academy students visited Rosse Posse Acres on May 18.

More than 40 students, their teachers and parents got together on May 18 for a trip to an elk farm. Their objective was to learn all about them, look at, and maybe touch their skin and antlers. While the learning experience, all about elks, was fun and interesting, it was the petting zoo that created most of the excitement.

The trip took them to Rosse Posse Acres. The first part of the program was a visit to about 80 head of elk where Brenda Ross and staff members explained all about elk, including the care and feeding of them and other elk aspects. The children also learned various other elk facts from their hides to the velvet on their antlers, which are regrown every year.

However, it wasn't all just learning. Once they'd finished with the elk, the students went to a petting zoo, which featured pygmy goats, miniature donkeys, ducks and chickens. They also got to view a fallow deer, a wallaby and a Patagonian Cavy. The latter are large, plant-eating rodents that are distantly related to guinea pigs, but are larger and sort of resemble a cross between a rabbit and a deer. Wallabies are also plant eaters, but are members of the kangaroo family, and can be found in small to medium sizes. Fallow deer are a medium sized deer native to the Near-East.

One mother told the Herald she couldn't get her son to come talk to the reporter because he was chasing a miniature donkey, while another student said she was excited she got to pet a goat and it didn't smell.

This is one of the many field trips taken this year by the Connections Academy, which is a free, public school in which children receive their education at their own speed in their home. The curriculum meets state standards and is taught by state certified teachers. Alyssa Nussbaumer has two children in the school. Her son Colten is a 14-year old high functioning autistic student, who was bullied at public school. Since he moved to Connections the student from Slayton gets along well with the ORCA students on field trips.

Her daughter Lexie, in the sixth grade, told the Herald she likes her school much better because "I used to get bored in class and I don't get bored anymore. As for the field trip, "I like it because we learned all about elk's lives and their antlers."

Nussbaumer noted that it's not every day you get "…to stand three-feet from a bull elk and they are big."

Kris Christopherson and her daughter Macy Moore are from Molalla, also said they were having fun. Macy is a fourth grader who loved the field trip especially petting the goats. Her mom liked it because she learned about the elk, its history and antlers.

Kris likes the school because of the adventures her daughter has and also its flexibility. "It fits into our schedule and her level as well as focuses on learning with less distractions."

The school has offered students field trips like any other school. Some of the recent trips included Oregon Garden in Silverton, for a botany program; Silver Falls State Park in Sublimity for nature, science and history; Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville; Horses of Hope in Turner, all about volunteerism and equine therapy; Champoeg State Park in St. Paul for history and nature; Pi Day, learning math at Pietro's Pizza in Salem; Bauman Farms Pumpkin Patch in Gervais learning about biology, science, nature and agriculture. Others include the Enchanted Forest in Turner; Albany Carousel and Regional Museum in Albany learning history and craftsmanship; and DNA Lab & Wave Energy Lab at Oregon State University in Corvallis learning about Science and renewable energy.

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