With the help of a grant from the Education Foundation, Slack Elementary School teacher Gustavo Monsante has created an outdoor classroom to teach his students about the environment.

“My goal is to give the students an opportunity to experience the outdoors, the environment and to create leaders who want to be involved in caring for the environment,” he said.

The students will experience lessons taught under a tent, explore ecosystems in the pond and care for chickens that were donated by Ivonne Hunt, a 28-year paraprofessional and co-owner of Bald Hill Poultry.

“A lot of the chickens I sell are for backyard eggs, but it’s when the kids come out and they know how sweet these chickens are and they name them, that’s when the fun begins,” Hunt said. “That’s there the joy is.”

Veterinarian Brian Hafernick dropped by on Wednesday to talk to the students about what it’s like being a veterinarian and to certify the health of the chickens.

“I love getting to teach the kids about animals,” Hafernick said. “They are so curious at this age, and they love animals. It’s like one unifying thing that all kids love.”

He asked the students what makes it more difficult to find out what is wrong with animals than with humans.

“Because they can’t talk?” one student guessed.

“That’s exactly right,” Hafernick said. “You have to make really good observations to find out what is wrong with them.”

He then showed the students the different tools he uses on different animals. He uses pinchers on cows to find out where they are hurting. He also uses a hose on cows or horses with stomach aches.

“Cows burp all day long,” he said. “They’ll eat out in the field, go to a shady place where they’re comfortable, burp up their food and swallow it again. If a cow can’t do that, that’s a problem.”

So he uses the tube to let the air out of a cow’s stomach.

Then Hafernick started his examination on the chickens. After finding the heart of one chicken with his stethoscope, he let the students try to hear their heartbeat.

“I think it was cool how their heart sounding like an ocean,” 10-year-old Isabella Calzadrilla said. “This is fun because we can come and see the pond. I like how they put the rocks and the chickens.”

Ten-year-old Trinidad Aleman wasn’t as impressed with the chickens because he has chickens at his home.

“It was cool to have Dr. Hafernick talk to us,” Trinidad said. “I never knew that a chicken’s heart beated so quickly.”

Ten-year-old Bryan Ortiz said he loved the outdoor classroom.

“I think it was the best thing we’ve had in the school because we get to explore new things and talk about with people things we’ve never done, and it’s really fun,” Bryan said. “I got to learn how to build a pond. You just put a tarp and then the water and you have a filter to clean the water. Then we put fish and two turtles in there.”

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.