HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Students who returned to Holland Christian Schools’ Rose Park Elementary Tuesday had some furry friends to greet them.

The school’s farming program utilizes a greenhouse and a barn with two chickens and two goats — affectionately named Rosie and Parker — to teach lessons ranging from mathematics to writing.

“It’s a new opportunity to shape learning. It’s a new structure to how to learn. It’s a new structure to introduce responsibility, community, creativity,” Danielle Snoeyink, a fourth grade teacher, said.

The opening of the farm, dubbed the Rose Park Ranch, last fall was met with enthusiasm from students, Principal Miska Rynsburger said.

“They’re excited when it is actually their day to do barn chores. They literally come running out the pathway and grab brooms, rakes, pitchforks. They start cleaning,” Rynsburger said.

The school has expanded the program by coming up with new ways to incorporate the farm into the curriculum.

“We have nonfiction reading and writing. We’ve got data graphing when the chickens lay eggs. There’s so much curricular learning and at the same time it’s concurrent with social emotional wellness for the children,” Rynsburger said.

If students are interested in growing plants, they can help in the greenhouse.

“Our greenhouse has raised bed gardens for vegetables that we want to harvest and then there’s table for potable plants that we want to give away or sell for a fundraiser,” Rynsburger explained.

The farming program at Rose Park Elementary near Holland. (Aug. 22, 2023)
The farming program at Rose Park Elementary near Holland. (Aug. 22, 2023)

New this year is a waterfall next to the barn and natural playscape that will give students additional places to learn outdoors.

Getting approval to have animals on school property provided an unexpected lesson in local government and persuasive writing.

“Several students went to the planning commission. They read their letters and … the planning commission approved the amendment to our ordinance and now any school in Holland Township that has five acres or more can have five agriculturally zoned animals,” Rynsburger said.

There have been some surprises for the school farmers — like when the goats learned to unlock their gate.

“We deal with it and it’s hilarious and the kids laugh and those are things that you just … can’t plan for, but this barn, we have a blessing to have it,” Rynsburger said.