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Learning Outside the Classroom at Local Farms

Learning Outside the Classroom at Local Farms


Children take donkeys for a walk at Lil’ Buckaroo’s Petting Zoo. Photo courtesy of Lil’ Buckaroos Petting Zoo.

Morgan Woodward remembers a shy 4-year-old visiting the petting zoo where she works. She was not interested in going into any of the animal enclosures or feeding the animals.

Woodward scooped up one of the petting zoo’s smallest goats, Snickers, and eventually the little girl came over to pet him.

“She loved it,” said the manager at Lil’ Buckaroo’s Petting Zoo in Erie. “She came over and pet Snickers and fed him treats. She had the biggest smile on her face after that. After Snickers, she did not want to leave. She went into all of the enclosures and had a wonderful time.”

Farm programs like Lil’ Buckaroo’s Petting Zoo give children lessons that animals teach best. Woodward even uses miniature donkeys to teach patience.

 “Animals are capable of teaching so many different lessons,” Woodward said. “I see that the children are excited and want to run up to the donkeys. I use this as a teaching moment. I get down on my knees and explain that if we get down and wait, the donkeys will come to us.”

 “Animals are capable of teaching so many different lessons.”

Liz Napp is the farm manager and program administrator at Sunflower Farm in Longmont. The farm naturally teaches lessons of the life cycle and unconditional love by observing birth, death and everything in between, Napp summarized.

“They’ll catch the birth of a baby goat or a lamb,” Napp explains. “They also may see the passing of an elderly animal. Kids react differently to death than adults do. We have teachers and staff who are really good about making kids understand that progression.”

The lessons learned can apply to the larger world.

“It helps at home whenever the family dog dies or grandma passes away, which is terrible — they’re a person, but they’ve kind of experienced it through this animal on the farm who they grew to love. We talk about it going back to the earth, and it helps them to get through it a little bit better, from what parents have told us.”

Unconditional love is something all children visiting the farm benefit from.

Children pet a friendly goat coming up to say hello. Photo courtesy of Sunflower Farm.

“Animals love unconditionally,” Napp said. “It doesn’t take much for a baby goat to be held and loved by a little kid and love back. I think that connection with the animals is super helpful.”

Sunflower Farm allows neurodivergent students who sometimes struggle in traditional classroom settings to attend programming at the farm and benefit from its therapeutic effects. Some students started with a paraprofessional helper and now no longer need their assistance.

“I think a lot of kids who are on the spectrum or kids who have ADD or ADHD, if they’re thrown into a classroom with four walls, it can be a really tricky situation,” Napp said. “They’re supposed to just sit there and not want to move around, and that’s the opposite of what we do. We are mostly outside in nature.”

Even if children aren’t engaging with the animals, Napp believes that the power of being outside in the fresh air and interacting with the environment is enough to help a child understand their place in the world.

“We want kids digging in the dirt, even if they’re not planting, but just picking earthworms, just understanding where our food comes from,” Napp said.

Boulder County has many farms with plenty of opportunities for children to engage with animals, nature, and the cycle of life. 

A child snuggles up with a chicken and goat at Sunflower Farm. Photo courtesy of Sunflower Farm.

Sunflower Farm

Located in rural Longmont, about five minutes outside of downtown, this family-run farm’s mission is to make their place accessible to the community. They have over 100 animals including llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens, guinea fowl, peacocks, cows, horses, two ponies, and a donkey. Operating for around 20 years, Sunflower Farm is an educational and demonstration farm offering licensed school programming for preschool, school age, and prekindergarten as well as children’s summer camps.

On the weekends Sunflower Farm hosts Farm Fests when the farm is open to the public. During the summer, they also host events with live music, with food trucks on Wednesday and Friday evenings. Programming depends on the time of year, so it’s best to consult the Sunflower Farm website for updated scheduling.

A child visiting Lil’ Buckaroo’s Petting Zoo looks into the eyes of a sheep. Photo courtesy of Lil’ Buckaroo’s Petting Zoo.

Lil’ Buckaroo’s Farm

Located in Erie, Lil’ Buckaroo’s Farm is fully interactive where guests can be hands-on. Children of all ages are able to feed their menagerie of Nigerian Dwarf goats, Babydoll sheep, Valais Blacknose sheep, and alpacas; brush the miniature cows; and pet the miniature pigs, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, Silkie chickens and Flemish Giant rabbits. Toddler time is offered on Thursdays and Friday at 10 a.m. and features an animal. Staff members teach children what the animal is, what they sound like, what they eat, and other interesting facts. Lil’ Buckaroo’s operates all year round with a fully insulated barn.

Photo courtesy of The Bee Hugger Farm.

The Bee Hugger Farm

Located outside of Lyons, The Bee Hugger Farm offers local raw honey, you-pick sunflower field, pumpkin patch, Christmas trees, animals to feed, tractors to climb, and pony rides. Bee Hugger has no set hours but allows visitors when the sun is out. For questions about groups or events text 303-330-8277.

Photo courtesy of Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary.

Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary

Located in Erie, Luvin Arms Sanctuary is a non-profit focused on providing sanctuary for abused or neglected farm animals including cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, horses, goats, sheep, and ducks. Luvin Arms is open to the public and hosts events like Cocoa and Cuddles Tours, when visitors can sip vegan hot cocoa and learn about the story of some of the animal residents at the sanctuary.

Photo courtesy of Strawberry Fields Farm.

Strawberry Fields Farm

Strawberry Fields Farm is an urban farm located in Erie. They are kid-oriented and hope to bring the community together to connect with nature and animals. Animals on the farm include chickens, goats, horses, and pigs. The farm offers two-hour birthday parties for children where they can learn how to be safe and compassionate to animals as well as private meet and greet opportunities for families to experience the animals. Strawberry Fields Farm offers a fun basic horseback lesson for children older than four, where they will learn to brush, saddle, and gently ride a horse.

Photo courtesy of Agricultural Heritage Center.

Agricultural Heritage Center

The Agricultural Heritage Center gives visitors a glimpse into the agricultural history of Boulder County, specifically from 1900 to 1925, before conveniences like refrigeration and modern machinery. Located in Longmont, admission is free, and visitors can freely explore the grounds. The animals on site from April until October include chickens, pigs, draft horses, and sheep.

Photo courtesy of Ya Ya Farm & Orchard.

Ya Ya Farm & Orchard

Ya Ya Farm & Orchard is an heirloom orchard located in Longmont offering family-friendly fall activities and a farm stand. Bring a picnic and visit their orchard. The farm animals include their Percheron draft horses, miniature donkeys, chickens, ducks, and peacocks. There is no admission fee, but the you-pick orchard requires a reservation and is generally sold out by August.


Zoe Jennings
She really knows how to pick those high earning careers. As both a journalist and a preschool teacher, selling out is a worse fate than being broke for Zoe Jennings. Author of ‘The Word on the Yard: Stories from D.O.C. #166054,’ a humanizing look at life in prison, she hopes to become a writing instructor for students earning their degrees while incarcerated. Zoe enjoys music and the outdoors in her limited free time.

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