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Johnson and RSI student teach visiting Lantern Road Elementary class about goats
Why Not Goats?

October 09, 2019

The most unique addition to the Hamilton Southeastern Schools isn’t a new student or teacher. Rather, it’s a new addition to Riverside Intermediate School’s Outdoor Learning Center: goats.

Just over three years ago, Riverside Intermediate School’s Principal sent an all-staff email asking for out-of-the-box ideas. When art teacher Kevin Johnson suggested chickens, the idea stuck, and it grew into a project that has yet to stop growing. Riverside Intermediate is now home to two bee hives, one chicken coop, and four goats.

The goats – named Charlotte, Daffodil, Matilda, and Stella – originally belonged to Johnson at his home in Greenfield, where he owned and cared for livestock such as sheep and goats for the last 13 years. When Johnson moved and found himself unable to keep them, moving the goats to Riverside Intermediate just seemed like the natural progression.

As a suburb bordering on a city, most students in Fishers have animal experience that is limited to one or two pets. By hosting animals at Riverside, students get the chance to experience biological diversity in ways they never have, as well as learn about the key role each animal plays in society. “In general, having experience with animals that are dependent on our care is good life experience,” says Johnson. Exposure to animals outside of one’s comfort zone provides a variety of life lessons such as bravery, gentleness, and communication skills.

An inter-school connection has grown as classrooms from neighboring schools bring their students to Riverside Intermediate on field trip days, and intermediate students have the opportunity to take the initiative and teach visiting students themselves. The Outdoor Learning Space has also brought the community together as a whole. The chicken structure, animal feed, and all necessary resources were contributed by families and businesses in the community who are interested in watching the project grow – any maybe learn something for themselves, too. “It was one kind of absurd idea,” says Johnson, “and everybody got behind it, so it’s been awesome.”
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Hamilton Southeastern Schools

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  • 13485 Cumberland Road, Fishers, IN 46038
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Hamilton Southeastern Schools, as a forward-thinking school district, provides educational opportunities to ensure the success of each and every student, to become a responsible citizen and to positively influence an ever-changing world community.