Agro Raphael Brings Special Guests to Garden Club
Recent Saturday mornings at St. Paul’s School have brought some new celebrities to campus. At one of the latest garden club meetings, dozens of students—most of them members of garden club—gathered around Agronomist Raphael Fernandez Salvador as he introduced a hands-on component to a lecture he had given the week before on animal husbandry.
Underneath the shade of the school garden’s lean-to structure, Raphael hung a giant wire-frame cage that students had previously helped to construct. Crouched inside were five rabbits in shades of white, tan, grey, and brown. Raphael reviewed proper care for the rabbits as the students gazed curiously into the cage.
There were two goals for the session ahead: that students feel comfortable properly holding a rabbit by the scruff of its neck, and to identify a rabbit’s sex. Some students were initially unsteady with their rabbit-holding technique, but Raphael gently coached them so that by the end of the club’s meeting, students appeared to be experts at rabbit handling.
Raphael is known for encouraging his students to dive in and attempt new skills; he knows that mistakes and hesitancies are simply part of the learning process. His remarkable teaching style was evident at a similar garden club meeting in February—this time, goats took the place of rabbits as the furry class guests.
Raphael demonstrated once how to give the vaccine before allowing the students to take over. There were a lot of details to learn, including the method of suctioning the vaccine into the syringe. One girl named Guierline particularly loved giving the shots to the goats, making CHP staff wonder whether she will be a future veterinarian.
Goats have played an integral part to the expansion of garden club—both in helping students learn agriculture skills, but also in providing an income source to develop new programs. Raphael collaborated with St. Paul’s School financial staff to sell six goats last November in order to purchase the inputs of the rabbit raising project. There were also funds leftover from the sale to provide meals for students after garden club. After they learned to vaccinate goats, students enjoyed big bowls of “diri koule” (rice and beans.
Raphael envisions even more learning from the goats and rabbits. He keeps the rabbits carefully separated in cages that are meticulously labeled in order to track their genetics. He also speculates that the rabbits will serve as a source of meat one day.
We look forward to sharing more as garden club continues to bloom!
Can’t get enough photos of the goats and rabbits? Check out the photo album below.