On That Farm They Had Rare Sheep | God's World News

On That Farm They Had Rare Sheep

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    Student Corey Gibson poses with Kevin, one of the school’s North Ronaldsay rams, on the farm at Woodchurch High School near Birkenhead, England. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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    Woodchurch pupils line up with their sheep after competing in the young handlers class at the Westmorland County Show near Kendal in September. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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    Student Megan Pitt puts a head collar onto one of the school’s North Ronaldsay sheep. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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    Ella-Rose Mitchinson interacts with one of the school’s alpacas, Scout. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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    Ella-Rose Mitchinson feeds one of the school’s pigs. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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    Children from Woodchurch High School get ready to show their North Ronaldsay sheep. (Reuters/Phil Noble)
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City teens don’t often get to raise sheep, nurture alpacas, or feed pigs. But a school near Liverpool, England, exposes pupils to these and other agricultural jobs—plus the many benefits of God’s creation—by running its own farm.

Woodchurch High School educates students ages 11 to 16. Thirteen years ago, the school started a farm on its grounds. The farm extends and enhances the curriculum beyond reading, writing, and ’rithmetic.

Classes use the farm as a resource. Plus, students can access the farm during school breaks and at lunchtime.

Former students of Woodchurch, including current dairy farmers and veterinarians, say the school’s farm helped them find their vocations.

Former pupil Sophie Tedesco says the school “opened my eyes to the agricultural world.” She now works as a dairy farmer. “It was just completely different,” she says. “I just loved it.”

The urban area around Woodchurch ranks as one of England’s poorest. The farm helps expose students to people and professions outside the school’s surroundings.

“It is really important that [young people] have an opportunity to achieve, to thrive, to actually show skills,” says former head teacher Rebekah Phillips. She says farm experiences also help support students’ social and emotional development.

Each year, pupils compete in prestigious county farm shows. They display skills gained by tending the farm’s animals.

Many students have won acclaim from farming experts. But the school’s most impressive honors come for its work with rare sheep.

Woodchurch helps raise, breed, and protect sheep from North Ronaldsay Island, off the northern coast of Scotland. The breed is unusual. Members of the original flock eat almost nothing but seaweed. The entire breed is extremely sensitive to copper—possibly because of the island-bound animal’s high seaweed intake.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists North Ronaldsay sheep as in danger of extinction. Three other breeds make the list too, including Welsh Mountain Pedigree, Lincoln Longwool, and Whitefaced Woodland sheep.

Since the program’s start, Woodchurch has bred over 60 North Ronaldsay sheep on about an acre and a half. Farm manager Linda Hackett finds that remarkable for a small farm. Yet, she says, “We’ve had lambs every year.”

Woodchurch students enjoy the farm for more than just time outside the classroom.

Year 10 (ninth grade) student Ella-Rose Mitchinson dreams of becoming a veterinary nurse. She says the farm represents a safe space, away from the world of social media and the rigors of teen life. She says, “It lets me breathe.”

Why? Not all learning takes place inside closed classrooms. God’s creation is filled with wonders that offer myriad lessons.

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