CHILLICOTHE — Pickaway Ross students in Todd Jean’s science class sure have an interesting story to tell their friends and family; Monday morning they dissected a deer and on Tuesday prepared the meat for a chili cook-off.
Jean, who has previously done a deer dissection at the school last year, said the idea came from a friend and fellow teacher that teaches in the Adena School District, and his previous experience at Logan Elm, where he taught for 13 years.
“We use to do a butchering project there,” Jean said. “That’s about all we did and last year a good friend of mine that teaches at Adena did the project and I have a lot of kids from Adena that are outdoorsmen who asked me about doing it here. I talked to my supervisor and she was all for it.”
About 60 to 70 students from Jean’s class and another participated in the project, to varying degrees, and all were sent home with a note to inform parents of the project and if they wanted to opt out they could.
“If they wanted to opt out they could and I had two opt out,” Jean stated. “I let these kids be involved as little or as much as they want. I had a couple of girls that didn’t miss a beat by watching. I could tell they were paying attention to what we were doing and I acknowledged that with them. Those same two girls were right in there cutting and trimming and preparing today.”
Jean said students are able to learn with their hands and take away more than just science skills.
“The students in a regular classroom setting that experience a preserved animal don’t get to experience something like this,” he added. “The way it’s preserved everything is kind of dull. Everything with this project is all natural with its natural state and color. They also miss out on the odor but I always tell kids if it’s too much they can step out.”
Jean said hands-on learning is a great tool to use when it comes to helping the students learn.
“It’s an alternative method to educating students on the different things we’re teaching whether it’s anatomy or preparing food,” Jean continued. “Harvesting the deer is different than going in and cutting up cabbage or lettuce or chicken breasts because they saw where it came from. If you can give so many different options one way or another they’ll want to be involved.”
Jean said the students seemed excited and eager to participate in the two-year tradition.
“They are excited and don’t act that way with a book assignment,” he told The Circleville Herald. “I have students that may not be as excited to help on a book assignment but they stayed until the end and were some of the last ones there helping clean up. It’s a great feeling to find another niche or level for the kids and get them excited.”
Students reacted strongly to the lesson including Nayala Peoples, a senior outdoor power technologies student whose home school is Southeastern. Calling herself a “hands-on kind of girl” she enjoyed learning about where to aim to not spoil the meat when shooting the deer and helped hold the deer during the anatomy lesson.
Dalton Helsel, a senior in outdoor power technologies whose home school is Westfall, said he especially liked working on the deer and teacher Todd Jean helped him to improve his knowledge of side-dressing a deer.
“It was pretty awesome,” Helsel stated.
Tony Conrad, a senior carpentry student whose home school is Chillicothe, said he has some experience with cleaning a deer but it’s been a while.
“It’s been so long for me that the smell of the deer when he first opened it started getting to me,” Conrad remarked.
When it comes to the chili cook-off, the students were broken down into six teams of four to six students who will each make a different recipe that staff and students are invited to try on Thursday.
“We have a lab that has a kitchen in it and we’ll prepare the chili there,” Jean said. “There’s a big island in it and we’ll set up the six different recipes for the staff and students to vote on. We’re also making Italian sausage.”
Jean said he wants to make this a yearly event, provided he’s able to successfully acquire a deer each year.
“The administration has been supportive in this activity and it’s something we’ll continue to do if interest and resources are available,” Jean concluded.