A new barn makes all the difference for students and animals at McGavock High School.
The barn replaces an old greenhouse on the Nashville school property, and agriculture teacher Jessie Lumpkins is thrilled about the opportunities it will provide for students.
"I don't want to be the class where they just sit and read it in a book," Lumpkins said in an interview with The Tennessean. "They need to come out here and actually do it."
The students have been involved in the project from the very beginning, even offering suggestions during the design process. The finished barn provides shelter, roosting areas for chickens, as well as an enclosed area for students to trim the goats' hooves. Students will also have access to an indoor small animal lab.
The project, funded by Metro Nashville Public Schools, cost about $100,000.
"What's great is that the students feel valued because they see that MNPS invested a lot of time, effort and money into them," Lumpkins said.
The students will be in charge of barn maintenance, including routine cleaning.
"I told them they need to get ready to muck stalls," Lumpkins said. "I've already got students bringing some extra shoes."
Now that they have a barn, Lumpkins is planning for the future. She would like to expand Raider Ranch to include sheep, more alpacas, and even a miniature donkey or horse. She also hopes to get a calf that the students can raise, as well as more chickens so they can grade and sell eggs to the local community, with proceeds going to the school's Future Farmers of America chapter.
Amber Graves, senior and FFA chapter president, is excited for these possibilities.
"We're basically running our own farm," Graves said. "It's neat to have that now in such an urban area."
There are equally exciting plans for the indoor lab as well. While it currently houses rabbits, guinea pigs, a hedgehog, and a cat for students studying the care of small animals, Lumpkins hopes to eventually launch a pet grooming service, with students running all aspects of the service and earning money for their FFA chapter.
"We're actually gonna run our own business," said sophomore Colby Chapman.
Since many of her students want to make a career with animals, Lumpkins believes these opportunities will prepare them for life behind the classroom.
"I want them to have a leg up when they go out in the world," she said.