Sundale School offers outdoor adventures on campus

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Walk on the campus of Sundale School in Tulare County, and you will find students working with their hands.

Makenna Dean, 11, enjoys feeding chickens, collecting eggs and spending time outdoors.

"It teaches me how to take care, how to love what you have, to love nature, don't take it for granted and just love it."

Students care for Coco and Gabby, the schools' goats and learn about Koi fish in a relaxing setting.

Penny Allen, or "Miss Penny" as she is known to her students, is the Ag Science teacher at Sundale.

"I've always wanted them to feel like they weren't in school that they could just get away from everything."

RELATED: ABC30 half-hour special focuses on exploring the outdoors

Principal Cindy Gist says spending time outdoors can change a student's day.

"It really boosts their confidence, gives them a sense of purpose. We find that a lot of our students might be having a difficult day in the classroom, whether something that may have happened at home or whatever it may be but they come out here and they're a little more relaxed and calm which sends them back to the classroom in a different state of mind."

Their senses are enlightened with the smell of lavender as they cut, tie and dry the plants.

Eventually, the lavender and eggs will be up for sale at the school's Trading Post, and that's where Andrew Mora, 13, is picking up customer service skills.

"I like the independence. They will give you something and they trust you to do it if you do it right the more you do it, the more the trust they give to you."

Trust is big at the school. The majority of the K through 8 school's Ag Center is student kept. That includes the secret garden where you will find real turtles and mythical fairies.

"It just makes me happy because it's open and you get to help with the sort of nature feeling," said Makenna. " You get to clean and do this plant stuff, it's just awesome."

Agriculture is the largest private employer in the county with farm employment accounting for nearly a quarter of all jobs. Sundale students get a head start on future careers. Each class has its own garden.

"They learn how to put in sprinkler lines drip lines in our garden last year, they help me out and put up fencing," said Allen. "My kids are the best workers in the world! When they leave here they have a true meaning of pride!"

Allen considers her classroom full of animals a safe haven.

"In the mornings, my class is packed by 7:30 am. Everybody has a snake or guinea pig, or the dog, or their leading goats."

Whether students pursue ag careers or other jobs, they come away with lifelong lessons on teamwork, communication and compassion.

"I think it's teaching them to love," said Allen. "You have to love something."

"There's no words for this place, it's just awesome," said Makenna.

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