Pet ownership is on the rise, and with it comes an increased need for veterinary professionals in the workforce. By 2030, approximately 41,000 additional veterinarians will be needed to care for companion animals. With the veterinary professional shortage imminent, it’s even more important for students to explore careers and develop skills in this field. Students in Mayfield, Kentucky are doing just that in their animal science courses at Graves County High School (GCHS).
“The Animal Science pathway strives to prepare students for a career working with animals, whether that be as a veterinarian or vet tech, animal nutritionist, farmer, or anything in between,” said Abby Lyell, one of three agriculture teachers at GCHS. “Students are taught to care for the health of animals and work to improve public health and perceptions of animal agriculture.”
Graves County High School, KY
Lyell was raised in Graves County and has strong ties within the agriculture community. She is in her third year of teaching at GCHS, where she teaches Ag Power, Structure, Technical Systems and Animal Science courses. Lyell is a product of the program she now teaches, having graduated from GCHS herself in 2017.
Students in her Animal Pathway classes study and apply concepts in many areas from animal handling and safety to anatomy and physiology. These courses help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed and continue their education in Animal Science Technology, Equine and Small Animal Science, and Veterinary Science.
“While we live in one of the most agriculturally productive counties in the state, our students are very much diversified in terms of academic ability (GT, IEP, 504, ELL, etc.), living in rural/urban areas, socio-economic status, and race,” Lyell stated.
The 277 students in GCHS’ agriculture classes are drawn to the animal science courses because of the extensive hands-on opportunities offered, such as the Realityworks’ training tools and internships available within the community.
“I wanted to provide my students more meaningful and close-to-real opportunities to apply the skills they are taught in class,” shared Lyell.
When asked what students want to achieve through her animal science courses, Lyell referenced the National FFA Mission Statement: Premier Leadership, Personal Growth, and Career Success. “Students choose to be a part of our program to develop themselves in these three areas, to learn to be a well-rounded individual who will contribute to our community,” Lyell explained.
Using Perkins funding and grant money from Kentucky’s LAVEC program, Lyell purchased Realityworks’ stomach models, Large Dog Model, Canine Vet Trainer, Bovine Breeder™ artificial insemination simulator, and Swine Litter Processing Kit for her animal science courses.
“I also purchased the models to supplement my teaching,” said Lyell. “It’s easy to use pictures and PowerPoints but having a tangible model that kids can ‘dissect’ has truly made a difference in their level of understanding.”
Students use the Canine Vet Trainer to practice injection techniques, blood draws, and restraints. The trainer offers realistic and consistent hands-on practice caring for a dog. It’s about the size of a mid-sized male Labrador Retriever with moveable limbs to make restraint hold practice realistic. Additionally, students can practice venipuncture, catheterization, and other key skills in animal science courses.
They also practice pregnancy checks and artificial insemination techniques with the Bovine Breeder. This unique learning aid helps teach correct cervix manipulation, AI gun positioning, and pregnancy palpation. It allows students to see inside the reproductive tract to identify reproductive system landmarks.
“My students love [the trainers]!” Lyell exclaimed. “They know when the models are out that they are in for a fun class! They’ve even given the vet trainers names.”
Before using the Realityworks tools, Lyell would come up with simulated activities in her animal science courses using common household items, such as modified pool noodles for injections, bananas for sutures, and stuffed animals for injections. “Using the models I purchased through Realityworks allows me to streamline my process and not have to purchase consumable materials over and over for some labs,” stated Lyell.
“We believe that learning should and can be fun, and our students gain a much better understanding of complicated concepts and develop stronger skill sets because of [the hands-on learning],” Lyell shared.
Learning tools used:
Large Dog Model
This agricultural model is a detailed model of a large-breed female dog and features internal and external anatomy, splitting in half to reveal removable organs.
Canine Vet Trainer
This realistic Canine Vet Trainer provides consistent, hands-on practice of caring for a dog.
Bovine Breeder™ artificial insemination simulator
This simulator is a unique learning aid that teaches correct cervix manipulation, AI gun positioning and pregnancy palpation.
Swine Litter Processing Simulators
Use each of the four piglet simulators in this kit to practice four processing techniques. These techniques include teeth clipping, castration, tail docking, as well as ear notching.