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Emu Farmers Participate in International School Project

The children of Joe Henderson Elementary School will probably never forget the week of November 15. Dubbed "Emu Week", each school day brought a new emu related item into the children's lives. Monday, the children each received a sample of emu leather. Tuesday, they took home emu feathers to show their families - sort of a before and after shot as one feather was dyed and the other was natural. Wednesday brought oil samples (with one mother being told by her twin girls that it would make her stay young). Thursday, everyone tried emu jerky - with most asking for more! Friday, soap samples and eggs were distributed. Despite the popularity of the jerky, the eggs were the long awaited prize. "In more than one class the kids clapped and yelled when I came into the room, they were so excited about getting eggs to take home," reports Mrs. Lori Nardone.  "Some were talking about how they were going to show them off to their friends and relatives at Thanksgiving, and others talked about wanting to decorate them like the one that had been on display in the library." First grader Meg Summer-Moore, age 6 1/2, agrees. "My favorite part of Emu Week was getting the emu eggs. It has a hole in it where they got the egg liquid out. I loved the egg. It is in my bedroom in a little nest I made for it.  I have to keep the door closed so the cats don't play with it and break it."

The climax of the week was the "Emu Country Hoedown". The hoedown featured music, food and raffles. One display table was labeled "Brendan Returns". The flat version of Brendan Leehan was back from his trip to a Tennessee emu farm. On display was his journal (full of pictures), a can of 'possum, T-Shirts, cotton samples, emu feed samples and a carved emu egg.

The other display table contained emu related raffle items - some made from emu by-products such as emu feather dusters, carved or painted emu eggs, leather key cases & rings, feather earrings, emu toenail keychains & necklaces, an Emu Egg Bird House and a variety of emu oil-based beauty products. Other raffle items celebrated the emu image and included pewter emus, emu magnets, note paper, drinking cups, and a wonderful Limited Edition Emu Print by wildlife artist 
Michael James Riddet 
(winner of the 1984 & 1992 Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp competition).
DJ Terry McInerney entertained with country and dance music. Students and parents line danced, learned the Virginia Reel, and square danced. The hit of the party was undoubtedly the Dancing Emu (a teacher in costume), who danced with all the children while telling people to stay away from the emu burgers!
Led by emu farmer Simon Caleb, parent and teacher volunteers cooked over 400 emu burgers for the gathering. At one point lines reached around the room. "The burgers were actually quite tasty, and we were all impressed with the nutritional information provided to us about the burgers!" reports Mom Janis King. Others agreed. The Lambert Family (Chris, Carol & Nicholas - age 8) remarked, "We had delicious emu burgers that had people lining up out the door into the cold just to try them." Matthew Bilotti, age 10, states "I thought the emu burgers were delicious. I would eat them every day, and I liked all the useful stuff."


The project has won praise from not only parents and children, but educators as well. Mark Stephenson said it best "As a principal of El Centro Elementary School in Napa, California and an Apple Distinguished Educator, I cherish this memory as an example of the inspirational curriculum that can result from creative Internet projects involving students of all ages in authentic hands-on research and learning. Becky Ross and other Henderson teachers did a sensational job of enriching the lives of our children, involving them in reading, writing, science and social studies; in short a thematic curriculum that touched all disciplines and is what quality teaching is all about."
If you are wondering how this event came about, it all started with web surfing teacher Becky Ross. Building on the school theme "Farms Around the World", she started a class project based on the children's book
"Flat Stanley", by Jeff Brown. 

Flat Stanley was a little boy who was flattened when a bulletin board fell on him. He wanted to visit friends in California, but, because it cost too much to go by plane or train, his family folded him up in an envelope and mailed him. In the Joe Henderson Elementary School version, the students mailed life sized paper doll likenesses of themselves and a journal to the participating farms. Someone on the farm makes entries into the journal for the two week period the "child" visits. By the end of February all the journals and visiting flat students should be back in the classroom. Because the response from the farming community as a whole was so great, the entire school has been able to participate instead of just 3rd Grade. In talking to one of the participating Tennessee emu farmers, Myra Charleston, Mrs. Ross had remarked that she would like each of the children to have a taste of emu, just to see what it was like. Myra contacted California emu farmer Simon Caleb, who quickly volunteered to donate the emu burgers and do the cooking. From there it became a fund-raiser to help pay for postage, paper and other expenses of the "Flat Stanley" portion of the Farms Around the
World project. A plea was put out on several emu email lists and through the American Emu Association for emu related products to be given away during "Emu Week" at the school. Within two months emu farmers across America were mailing samples of oil, leather, jerky, soap, feathers,decorated toe nails, eggs and many other products to the school. Linda Cowgill said "It was like Christmas opening all of the boxes of emu products! I had no idea of all the products that come from an emu and what  creative and crafty things can be produced!" Items were also donated to the school library, copies of 
Edward the Emu & Edwina the Emu, "The Eggshell Sculptor" magazine, 2 Ostrich eggs, 2 Rhea eggs and a video tape of an emu hatching and the little chicks. For more information about the Farms Around the World project, please visit the 

Joe Henderson Elementary
School Web Site
Click Here

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