Board approves farm animals at Holland school

Ottawa County

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Learning at Rose Park Elementary School in Holland could look a lot different next spring as the school has been allowed to have farm animals. 

A few students and staff presented to the township zoning board Tuesday asking for an amendment to allow them to keep farm animals on school grounds. 

“Dear zoning board, we hope you will grant us an amendment to have three goats,” first grader Paisley Vandenbeldt said as she reread a letter to News 8 cameras. “This will be good because we will take care of them and it will be brilliant for kids who are sad.”

The zoning board approved the amendment allowing the school to keep three goats and two chickens as a part of a farm focused learning initiative.

The school district posted about the board meeting and approval on Facebook.

“Students in all grades practiced their persuasive writing skills by writing letters to the Zoning Board, and a couple of students read theirs last night at the Holland Township Zoning Board meeting, and they agreed to the amendment,” the district said in their Facebook post.

Principal Miska Rynesburger said the idea started with a rabbit she used to keep in her office at her previous school.

“That bunny made such an impact on the students,” Rynesburger said. “When kids had some dysregulation with their behavior and I placed the bunny in their hands, all of a sudden their muscles would relax.”

She says integrating farming into the regular school day could inspire career choices and help students engage more with nature.

“Our hope as a teacher is that we do inspire kids who identify themselves as a learner for the rest of their lives as well as identify gifts that they haven’t identified yet,” Rynesburger said. “So much science learning is best when it’s done outdoors where earth science and animal science is evident all around us.”

Students at the elementary school agree that the animals could benefit their learning.

“They could be used for science or math because they could use the data from the animals in their statistics,” an excited 6th grade, Persephone Beebe, said about the animals.

The school plans to keep the animals on school property for the entire school year. The animals will go back and forth between indoor and outdoor shelter areas. They also hope to use their underutilized sporting fields as grazing pastures. 

In two weeks, the school plans to present to the township again. This time they will be working to secure the special permits required for the farm space. Plans at this point are tentative.

The school says if everything is approved, they hope to start the program by next spring. They plan to name the goats Rosie, Parker and Spider-Man (Peter Parker) in honor of the school’s namesake. There are no names for the chickens yet. 

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