The Dog Days – GSB Students Extend the Classroom in Animal Science Course

To say Gill St. Bernard’s Animal Science course is a hands-on learning environment would be a hairy understatement.

In this inimitable science elective, Upper School students use interactive labs and the school’s living classroom at Home Winds Farm to study a broad range of animal health topics such as nutrition, growth, behavior, reproduction, and genetics.

In addition to contextualizing important scientific principles, the course provides students foundational knowledge on animal husbandry, animal management strategies, as well as their ethical considerations. While these lessons are presented in the context of animals, many of these topics have relevance to broader subjects including environmental science, agriculture, public policy, and law.

“Animal Science has been one of the best classes I have taken at Gill,” said Belle Campion ’22.

“It’s great to go outside and be at Home Winds each week, and I love checking-in on the animals and helping out at the farm, which is so beautiful. For any student interested in Animal Science but not sure if they should take the class, I would say to definitely take it because it is such a unique opportunity that you can only have at Gill. You will learn so much from the farm and the animals and the teachers—it’s just a great experience.”

“If someone is even slightly interested in animals, be that domestic or farm animals, they should definitely join Animal Science!” said Nicholas Guth ’22.

Students enrolled in the class benefit from the combined knowledge and diverse perspectives of three very unique teachers — the experienced Biology lens of Mr. John Taeschler, the first-hand expertise of Home Winds Farm Manager, Mr. Ned Lincoln, and the clinical experience of full-time veterinarian and GSB Board Member, Dr. Andrea Freeman ’95.

“Our upper school animal science students get to participate in activities that many students would not participate in until veterinary school,” commented Dr. Freeman.

“As a GSB alum and a practicing veterinarian, I enjoy nothing more than sharing my love and appreciation for animals, science and medicine. When students step out of their comfort zones and out from behind their desks, I get to watch them and celebrate with them as they gain confidence around the animals and do things they never imagined themselves doing before.”

As part of their curriculum, Upper School students recently completed a lesson to learn how to perform a veterinary physical examination and what health information they can derive from it to better detect and prevent disease and to treat animals. After studying basic anatomy and physiological principles in class, students were paired with domestic and livestock animals, including cats, dogs, guinea pigs, donkeys, and goats. During the examinations, students learned the proper technique to listen to heart rates, feel pulses, take temperatures, assess hydration status, evaluate animal gaits, observe muscle asymmetry, and feel lymph nodes.

Dr. Freeman believes this type of educational approach provides Upper Schoolers with tremendous value.

“People learn in many different ways, but to have students actively engage in their learning makes lessons more memorable and helps them understand how the work they’re doing relates to the real world,” commented Dr. Freeman. “Performing a physical examination of an animal challenges students to not only learn the anatomy and physiology we discuss in class, but to truly utilize that information to evaluate a live individual, while thinking critically about what that means for that animal’s health.”

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