Turlock elementary school principal Tami Truax has an unabashed love for farm animals. The self-proclaimed “animal freak” shares her passion by bringing her very own petting zoo to schools, farmers markets and nursing homes.
Truax has also hosted a “Day on the Farm” event for autistic students and held a summer camp on her farm for the first time this year.
Her 10-acre farm located in Turlock is home to chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks, miniature horses, an alpaca, a miniature donkey and, most recently, a miniature mule.
“It’s such a passion; it’s amazing what animals can do for people,” said Truax. “They just bring such joy.”
Truax believes animals can bring educational curriculum to life, and serve as therapy to the ill and developmentally challenged.
“One day last spring …I was able to teach 200 kindergarteners about the farm in one day,” Truax said. “There were 200 kids who got to pet and experience animals and augment the curriculum.”
She has also brought just one or two animals into the classroom to serve as living lesson examples. One local teacher was using a book about farm animals to teach a lesson on comparing and contrasting.
“I brought a duck and a chicken in cages to the classroom, and now they really got to understand compare and contrast,” Truax said.
The petting zoo is also a regular addition to California State University, Stanislaus’ annual AgEdventure event. AgEdventure brings more than 1,400 area third graders to the university to get hands-on with a variety of ag-related activities.
Truax’s traveling petting zoo can also be found bringing comfort to those who are ill. Two years ago, Truax, her family and the entire menagerie paid an Easter visit to a local long-term care facility, Brandel Manor. It’s at places like Brandel that Truax sees the healing power of animals; “hand them a baby bunny or let them brush a miniature donkey and they just come to life,” she said.
— KRISTINA HACKER
209 staff reporter