I forget sometimes that things we think are normal, ordinary, boring even, are just as interesting to a kid as something exotic. Case in point: cows.
The Engineer wanted to learn how ice cream is made (that’s another subject for another post) and I wanted him to understand where milk comes from before we talked about what to do with it. So, the cow project was born.
To be honest, I went into this project thinking meh, cows. They stand there and poop and chew cud. What’s to learn?
I learned a lot, actually! Cows are quite interesting. I was really excited to show the Engineer cows from all over the world. From revered Desi cows in India to the nauseatingly over-muscled Belgian Blues, the different types of cows were fascinating. We even delved into a bit of history and geography (Texas Longhorns are descended from Spanish cows, and were brought here by the conquistadors.)
This project made an impact on me – in order for me to teach the Engineer effectively I have to be genuinely interested in a subject and not treat it as if it’s boring. That sounds rather obvious but it’s more difficult than you might think.
Cows don’t seem all that interesting on the surface. As I looked deeper, I realized that I could teach so many different things just by learning about cows. From the ruminant stomach to the herbivore teeth, from the history of conquistadors to the bull fighting traditions of Spain, and the physical characteristics of dairy versus beef cattle.
The dairy versus beef cattle facts sparked an interesting discussion on why Chick-fil-A uses Holstein cows (from the Netherlands, by the way) in their commercials. Holsteins are dairy cattle, not beef. The whole “Eat Mor Chicken” ad campaign is based on the wrong cow! The Engineer thought this was hilarious and that they needed to fix it with the right cows.
We sat with our cow book and looked at the world map and located the countries the cows came from or live in – the Engineer correctly identified France when I told him Belgium was next to France. I’m amazed – I had no idea he knew that!
We watched a few videos, but it was difficult to find good cow videos for some reason.
This video about dairy farming was fairly decent, although the Engineer thought the milking machine looked like a torture device.
Cow game: we strung up pictures of cow parts (hey, not what you’re thinking! Just the head, udder, and so on.) with the name on the reverse. The kids had to throw bean bags at the pictures, and every time they hit one they picked out the corresponding part from the box. Once they had a complete cow they got their cow puppet to play with. The Princess figured out that if she just kept hitting the wild card she could finish faster.
I realize that we barely touched on a lot of subjects here, but the Engineer is in Kindergarten. I expect as he matures and grows he’ll want to learn more deeply about the subjects he’s interested in. For now, a surface brush of the information is sufficient.