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A trip to the farm is just down a hallway these days thanks to new technology at Fox Valley Technical College's Service Motor Company Agriculture Center.

Students in FVTC's agriculture programs are living the farm-to-classroom experience by learning how to deliver a calf. Thanks to new learning tools, converting a classroom into a stall for best practices in bovine and equine training is now an everyday reality.

Observing that it's difficult to set up mock situations that include the calf birthing process, Agriculture Instructor Dr. Lori Nagel began searching for teaching simulators. She found the ideal fit from a Canadian company.

Aptly named Maple Leaf Foxy, the bovine birthing simulator debuted for classroom use in mid-April.

Just as with humans, Nagel notes that birthing a calf can take anywhere from five minutes to several hours. The simulator, of course, gives students a chance to practice routine births. However, even more valuably, the tool provides students an opportunity to troubleshoot situations that may go wrong.

With the simulator, instructors can set up scenarios in which the birthing process isn't playing out predictably. It allows the students to feel comfortable with the typical, recognize the atypical, and know when to seek help, Nagel notes.

The technology also includes internal reproductive organs of the cow. Called the Theriogenology Model, students can experience changes that happen to a cow during pregnancy.

Working with parts of the model, student Tessa Wiles of Kewaunee noted that for visual learners, it's great to witness the stages of pregnancy in a cow.

In addition to the birth simulator and model, Nagel and her students welcomed an equine model that allows students to practice blood draws and injections. Joking that the horse could be called 'Foxtrot,' Nagel said the model helps students better understand the vein structure of a horse around its neck.

Student Brittany Schmalz of Oshkosh said that using the tool gives her a chance to practice so that when she administers an injection or performs a blood draw in the real world, she won't hurt the animal.

Those trips to the 'classroom farm' now provide enhanced training for students so that when they're ready to hit the real stalls, they can proceed with greater knowledge and confidence.

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