WEST VALLEY CITY — Rodeo clowns were the teachers Monday at the Dancing Moose Montessori School.
Students and staff took a departure from classroom instruction to learn firsthand knowledge from professional bullfighters and cattle ropers as part of the private school's ranch and farm week, leading up to Pioneer Day on Saturday.
"Our goal at Dancing Moose is to educate the whole child," said Joyce Sibbett, co-founder and president of the private school.
The unusual and colorful guests helped to educate the country side of the children, with lasso tutorials and bull-avoiding training, all of which were explained with a drawl.
Sibbett said the assembly wasn't out of the ordinary for the school, which tries to make its summer session seem like an educational vacation compared to the rest of the year.
"We really focus on the idea that summer is sunny and fun," she said. "There are a lot of activities, and we don't want the children to miss out on those."
Days of '47 rodeo barrel man Mark Swingler donned full makeup and slouchy suspenders as he entertained the children while also imparting safety tips. Swingler related his barrel and elbow pads to the precautions his young audience should take when riding bikes and scooters.
"If I get hit," he said, punching his barrel, "I'm going to be OK, right? We're going to wear helmets, right?"
Most of the children were delighted with their new friends, though a few of the youngest found the clowns to be more scary than funny.
In addition to being entertained by men in drums and cowboys with loops, most of the 150 students at the school will take a field trip to Wheeler Farm this week to learn about Utah's farm history.
Also Monday, Kelly Stevens' class of first- and second-grade students worked together to "milk" a "cow" — a small wooden form in the shape of a holstein whose udders consisted of a rubber glove with holes in the finger tips. The kids each took turns giggling and squirting watered-down white paint from the faux bovine. They were scheduled to shake cream into "homemade butter," Stevens said.
"School-made butter," one girl corrected.
Each week of the summer program has a different theme, and it's particularly helpful for students who are a little behind in certain subjects, Sibbett said.
"It's just a huge boost," Sibbett said.
The school serves children from age 18 months to second-graders, and everyone three and older goes on field trips.
"There's constant fun (and) the learning activities that go along with it," Sibbett said.