Some new kids arrived at Chrysalis Alternative School last week.

About 15 goats are now housed in a barn built on the field behind the school. Not Forgotten Outreach, a program that uses agriculture to help veterans suffering from PTSD, and volunteers from Southern Methodist University-Taos helped the students at Chrysalis construct fencing for their goat barn. Construction began at the beginning of the school year and was completed just last week.

Orion Cervio, a teacher at Chrysalis, has been involved in this project since the beginning. He said he hopes the students will soon operate a creamery at their school, producing milk and cheese from their goats. He also said he’d like to eventually teach the students to slaughter and butcher the animals.

“A lot of great people have shown up to help with this,” he said.

Cervio said the project was inspired by Miguel Santistevan’s agricultural programs throughout the district. Santistevan has worked with students to plant and harvest crops on multiple fields around Taos, and now has an aquaponics system at Chrysalis, where the students are learning to harvest fish for food.

“Miguel’s arrival (to the school) was the beginning of a new direction for us,” Cervio said.

On Monday (Jan. 13) Cervio led his class out onto the field to get acquainted with the goats.

Cervio said they brought in all different breeds of goats to encourage genetic diversity among the herd.

One of the bucks, Spartacus, was in heat and was therefore extremely hyperactive and producing a strong odor. One of the females, who Cervio described to the students as the dominant female, had hoses attached to her horns to soften the blow to the other goats when she inevitably charges at them.

When teacher Paula Martinez laid down grain for the goats, the dominant female shoved the others aside to hog her own pile. Meanwhile, a small, spotted Nubian goat remained close to the students, preferring to let the students pet and fawn over him than interact with the other goats.

“We’ll learn a lot about human behavior from the goats,” Cervio told his students.

Student Miranda Romero said she learned to use various tools for the first time while constructing the fences. She contended the girls among the group were more focused during construction than the boys.

“The boys gave up, so I built it,” she said.

Elizabeth Cleary is a reporter for The Taos News.

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