(WHTM) — Hamsters, guinea pigs, goldfish, and rabbits are classroom pets of the past. The “Adopt a Cow” program is working to bring dairy farming to life in the classroom while allowing students and teachers to “adopt” a dairy cow as their classroom pet.

You may be wondering, “How do I adopt a cow and fit it in my classroom?” Well, Discover Dairy has you covered. There’s no need to worry about caring for a cow in your classroom. You can adopt a cow virtually through their yearly “Adopt a Cow” program.

The “Adopt a Cow” program, organized by Discover Dairy, pairs classrooms with a calf from a dairy farm. Students are kept up-to-date on all the information regarding their cow and their life on the farm. This program is entirely free, although donations are greatly appreciated.

Discover Dairy is an initiative of the Center for Dairy Excellence and Undeniably Dairy, and is funded in part by the Dairy Excellence Foundation. Discover Dairy focuses on bringing information on dairy farms to the classroom. They feature interactive cross-curricular, multi-leveled lesson series that meet Pennsylvania state education standards and anchors for science, math and reading.

Hundreds of thousands of students worldwide have been positively impacted by this year-long, interactive learning opportunity. Last year, over 30,000 elementary and middle school classrooms, home school families, scout troops, library groups, and other organizations participated in the program.

This program isn’t just local to Pennsylvania. Classrooms from all 50 states have participated in the program, along with a total of 38 countries. The program is also extremely beneficial for virtual students because they are able to access the program from their own homes.

Many dairy farmers have partnered with the program to help bring the dairy industry to students and classrooms.

Caitlyn Degner, a dairy farmer who works on a farm in Berks County, said that she got started with the Adopt a Cow program the minute that she saw the program posted on Facebook. “At the time (of the Facebook post) I was in charge of the young stock on the farm and not only wanted to share the joy of calves, but also wanted to help educate people who aren’t familiar with the dairy industry,” said Degner.

Degner works part-time at the farm, which is a family business owned by Walt and Ellen Moore. The farm is local in Pennsylvania, located in Southern Chester County. As part of her role in the program, Degner works to help collect and distribute information about the calves to the classrooms who participate in the program.

“As a host farm, we select 4 calves that are born within a specified week and periodically collect information regarding each calf, (birth dates, growth rates, and measurements, production of mom, etc.) in addition to pictures to send to the class,” stated Degner.

Classrooms enrolled in the program will receive photo and video updates of their cow throughout the school year. Discover Dairy also provides hands-on learning activities and a free curriculum for students to participate in while they learn about the dairy industry and where their food comes from. These activities provided through the curriculum are immersive and hands-on.

There is also an option for a live virtual chat, as well as farm tours. Students can virtually meet with the dairy farmer and ask questions.

“My favorite part of the “Adopt a Cow” program is being able to share my passion for the dairy industry – especially the cows – with other people,” said Degner. “This program is extremely beneficial because it allows me to share information about agriculture and where food comes from with those who otherwise may not have had the opportunity.”

Degner also believes that this program can help people better understand the industry. “It is easy to get caught up in the myths, especially with social media, and even more so if people are unfamiliar with what happens. The information is directly from the farm to the classroom, and it shows how much these farmers care about not only their animals and their farm, but the community they provide for.”

The “Adopt a Cow” program has been utilized by classrooms, homeschoolers, after-school programs, nursing and assisted living homes, and many more groups.

If you are interested in seeing if you qualify for the program, you can find more information here. This program is open to anyone who qualifies, worldwide. Registration ends September 15.

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Discover Dairy is an educational series that is managed by the Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania in partnership with American Dairy Association Northeast, American Dairy Association Indiana, Midwest Dairy, The Dairy Alliance, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Dairy Council of Arizona and Nevada, Dairy West, New England Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Washington, American Dairy Association Mideast, Dairy Council of Florida, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, and Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council.