CALS dairy science outreach extends to Chicago’s south side

Chicago high school students got some hands-on dairy science experience—up to their elbows, in fact—when UW-Madison instructors brought a couple of cannulated dairy cows to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences last month.

Cannulated cows are surgically fitted with a porthole that allows access to the cow’s gut. UW-Madison dairy instructor Ted Halbach and grad student Shane Fredin brought them to the school so that students could get a feel—literally—for how a cow digests forage, the first step in making milk.

“My students were stunned that they got to put their arm in a cow.  After the first brave soul, they all lined up with gloves eager to follow suit,” says CHSAS agricultural instructor Maggie Kendall. “They were enthralled.”

CHSAS is an experimental magnet school within the Chicago public schools system devoted to teaching agricultural science to urban students. Students commute to the school’s 72-acre campus, which includes a 42-acre working farm, from throughout the city. Several UW-Madison ag scientists partner with CHSAS, both to provide educational resources and to connect with prospective students who are interested in agriculture.

“I believe this was a high impact outreach activity for dairy science,” says Fredin who is earning a Ph.D. “Recruiting even one or two students from an under-represented group will enhance the overall dynamic of our department by providing new and alternative viewpoints in the classroom.”

Not surprisingly, the urban high-schoolers didn’t know much about educational or career opportunities in dairying, but the UW workshop got them thinking.

“Many of them were quite interested when they heard about the opportunities for doing hands-on work while earning a degree, as well as the job opportunities in the huge dairy industry in the Midwest, particularly Wisconsin,” says Kendall.

CHSAS has prepared many students for agricultural careers. Several of the schools alums are currently attending the UW-Madison, and several more will be starting as freshman this fall.

“The Chicago High School for Agriculture Sciences has made me fall more in love with veterinary medicine and prepared me for the University of Wisconsin-Madison by allowing me to fully engage in my interest and explore the post-secondary options available to me,” said Bobbie Briggs, a former CSHAS student who is now studying animal science at the UW-Madison.

By Abbey Wethal