Once a year there always seems to be some kind of critter in the JVHS Agricultural Department of the school, whether it be baby goats, piglets or chicks, something always finds its way into the classroom for educational 23 turkeys.
The turkeys were from Penn State University. They were being studied in a research projec, and the researchers needed to find homes for the young birds. Raylene Russell, the Agricultural teacher at the school, saw it as a perfect opportunity for a research project of some sort.
“It was an unexpected project, but sometimes the unexpected ones tend to be the best of them all,” commented Russell. The research project didn’t really have any guidelines at first, so Russell and her student teacher, Rachel Bloom, let students choose what type of research they would like to perform.
There were several options that the students considered and different variables that they would have to control. They finally chose to do a comparison between different feeds. As a class they chose a Purina feed that had an 18 percent protein count and a Tractor Supply feed that had a 24 percent protein count. The turkeys were then separated into different pens and color coded by little tags on their feet.
“It’s pretty cool having the turkeys here and it’s a great experience,” senior Austin Port remarked. “It’s kind of like having any other pet, except we have to make sure they don’t get the wrong feed or our data will be incorrect.”
To see the results of each feed they have what they call “Turkey Tuesday.” Each Tuesday, they measure the breast and thigh, along with the weight of each turkey to record how much they have grown. At the end of the project, as a class, they will decide which feed made the turkeys grow faster.
“I think it is a great way for our agricultural department to take advantage of different opportunities,” sophomore Kat Coffman remarked. The students already had many escapees and had to learn how to clip their wings so that they couldn’t fly out of their pen.
“It’s a really fun project and I am enjoying assisting with it,” Bloom commented. Bloom has been teaching the students about scientific methods and steps scientists take in processes like this one.
To make the project more personal, each turkey was assigned to a student. The students were allowed to name their turkeys. Some are taking it at a competitive angle. “My turkey is named ‘Dinner’, and he’s going to be the biggest turkey in the shop,” staff member Elizabeth Sollenberger commented.
The turkeys will be in the classroom for the next few weeks for research. Eventually they will find their forever homes, and the students will get to compare the feeds amongst themselves.