A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Fayette County’s Stables program providing students experience from pasture to pond

Students at The Stables scooped water and mud samples to find out what lives in a pond, indicating whether the fish prefer worms, crayfish or other bait. (Photo from FCPS)


By Tammy Lane
Special to KyForward

Students at The Stables have explored far more than horses during the program’s first year. And through the various project-based learning and work experiences, they have gained self-confidence and built community at their school site within the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Stables, a Fayette County Public Schools program for grades seven through 12 who struggle in traditional school settings, enables students to participate in a work program, recover credits and take ownership of their education. In one recent outing, Mark Gintert of The Bass Federation shared his love of fishing and a few key lessons, including how to design a lure, tie a knot, take apart a rod and reel, wind the line and cast at targets.

“The drag enables you to fight a bigger fish,” he explained in a hands-on demonstration. “If you didn’t have this drag, more times than not, the fish would snap off your line.”

Students study the water and mud samples, which were laid out on plastic shower curtains. (Photo from FCPS)

Gintert showed the teens how to scoop water and mud samples to find out what lives in a pond, indicating whether the fish prefer worms, crayfish or other bait. And he talked about fish morphology, or the anatomical design among species – reviewing parts like the dorsal fin and gill rakers. The students also heard about the importance of clean water, proper shelter and healthy habitat.

“You’ve got to learn a little about the fish before you can catch the fish,” said Gintert, executive director of the Future Fisherman Foundation, which sponsored the “Hooked on fishing, not on drugs” seminar.

After lunch, he met with teachers and staff to brainstorm ways they can incorporate fishing in their classes, such as through biology, health and safety topics. The session fit well with “Operation WATER: Wellness in Agriculture Teaching Environmental Responsibility.”

“I designed the unit to show students different ways in which we can use our water and nurture the horse park’s ponds and wildlife,” said Brian McIntyre, academic dean at The Stables.

For instance, earlier this semester the teens learned about the aquatic herbicide Sonar, used to selectively manage invasive and nuisance weeds in freshwater ponds and lakes. The guest speaker that day was David Helm, a science content specialist in Fayette County Public Schools.

On a recent outing, students learned a few key lessons about fishing. (Photo from FCPS)

“We’re trying to venture out because we’ve got two ponds in our backyard, and a lot of our kids have never been fishing before,” McIntyre said, adding, “We’re trying to grow it into a club – something they can do on weekends or after school.”

Another success this year was the launch of a culinary team. “You get to work together with classmates, and we’ve cooked stuff like cowboy soup and a big breakfast,” junior Adrian McCowan recalled.

Digital photography has also been a huge hit, with students creating daily journals of images captured throughout the horse park. An assignment to shoot a historic barn from different distances and angles also enabled teachers to reinforce math and measurement skills.

“The kids’ working with the horses has been the major highlight,” McIntyre acknowledged. “They’re learning how to groom and bathe and feed them, and a few kids in Advanced Equine are learning how to give shots.”

The Stables’ partnership with Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, which houses a therapeutic herd, has proven invaluable in providing students with real-world experience and encouragement.

“We can get equine certification, which proves you know how to work with horses,” said junior Trell Turner. “If I left home on a bad note, I can come here and relax with the horse,” he noted. “It helps mentally, and it changes your whole mind frame because you’ve got this companion to take care of.”

Tammy Lane is a communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

You might also be interested in reading Horses become part of ‘amazing’ learning opportunity for some Fayette Co. students.

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