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West Patent Elementary School Celebrates Earth Day with Goats and Gardening

 students reach in a pen to pet goats

A thriving garden, a pair of chickens, some visiting goats — and soon a honey bee hive! On Earth Day, West Patent Elementary School enjoyed a day full of environmentally-minded activities and announced the newest addition to their school family: bees.

Each year, the school holds two schoolwide community service days: the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance and Earth Day.

“Earth Day is our yearly check in to see what else we might do to help support sustainable efforts and our environment,” tiered support teacher Denise Connolly said. “This year we held a schoolwide event of mega-proportions.”

The exciting day kicked off with West Patent’s first schoolwide assembly in more than two years. After singing Earth Day songs together, students learned about the “Bee Friends” initiative, which will have West Patent and Fox Lane middle and high school students establishing twin beehives and learning about bees together in a mentorship program.

Next, students went outside into the warm spring sunshine for two workshops: a Gardening Workshop run by Connolly and members of the Westchester Local Food Project and a Goats Workshop run by the owners of Fat and Sassy Goats and Bedford 2030. Once the outdoor activities were complete, students went back inside to learn more about the importance of bees.

“We constantly try to partner with environmentally-minded members of our local community,” Connolly said, noting that the school offers “many exciting initiatives and opportunities for our students that have them rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty — literally and figuratively — and engaging in project-driven environmental activities.”

For the Goats Workshop, students sat out in the grass sketching a trio of goats while the owners of Fat and Sassy Goats taught them about how goats can help clear land of invasive plants.

“Their superpower is that they prefer eating weeds over anything else,” said co-founder Jenn Balch. “They are an awesome force in nature, and a great way to replace other ways of removing plants that you don't want.”

After Balch and fellow co-founder Donald Arrant finished talking to students about the goats, students were able to ask questions while getting closer and even trying to feed them.

“Where would you get goats if you wanted one for a pet?” one student asked.

Another student held a clump of grass and tried to get a goat’s attention, calling out in a sing-song voice, “I have some nice juicy grass!”

Their excitement was evident in their smiles and laughter.

“Goats are active and smart,” said Matilda Lea-Hilpert. “I love being around them. They just bring peace.”

On the other side of the field, in the Learning Garden, students learned about how the school is transitioning its garden focus from “Learn to Grow” to “Grow to Give” in partnership with Westchester Local Food Project, an initiative created by D.I.G. Farm. Students will continue to sample crops that they harvest, but most crops will be donated to a local food pantry as a service-learning project.

After their talk, older students paired up with younger students to plant seeds and then read together if time allowed. It was an exciting day of bonding, learning and enjoying the beautiful weather.

students gather in the garden to learn how to plant seeds