Do goats have the same type of vision as dogs? Do they like to drink their own milk?

Children in Foothills-area elementary schools are having those questions and many others answered in an after-school program that brings ranch animals to schools and teaches children about community service.

Coordinators for the Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids, also known as TRAK, have been taking chickens, ducks, pygmy goats and potbellied pigs to three Foothills elementary schools for the past five weeks to teach children about the animals.

The non-profit program also held a grand opening for its ranch, 3230 N. Craycroft Road, on Saturday. It will offer various programs there that teach children the skills needed to work on a ranch and care for animals.

In addition, the children will learn how to reach out to the community through service projects and fundraisers.

The ranch houses almost 40 animals, including horses, rabbits, lambs and dogs.

TRAK founder and executive director Jill Prickett said one of the program's goals is to have the children take the animals into the community and educate the public.

"The goal is for the kids to be the leaders," Prickett said. "We want to go visit hospitals, sick children, homeless shelters — places where people are isolated and in need of company."

Prickett saw the positive effects of community service while she was a special-education teacher in Atlanta about 10 years ago.

She started a program at her school there that allowed children to go into the community to serve homeless families and their children.

"When kids do things for each other, it's a huge self-esteem builder," she said.

Prickett already has projects lined up for children who go to the ranch. They include designing and creating a pond, and linking up with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to do projects.

Prickett moved back to Tucson four years ago after spending the previous 10 years in New York City, St. Louis and Atlanta. She hired a business consultant about two years ago so she could learn how to start a business, she said. "I came in with the passion, energy and ideas, but no experience," she said.

TRAK partners with the Catalina Foothills School District Community Schools program to offer fee-based after-school classes at Sunrise Drive, Manzanita and Canyon View elementary schools.

The program serves about 60 children in the three schools and costs $95 for eight weeks, said Mary Grodman, a Community Schools program coordinator.

"I thought it was a great idea, because how often do children get to play with chickens and goats?" she said.

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A group of Sunrise Drive Elementary School students gathered Thursday to feed and milk two pygmy goats. They tasted goat milk and cheese, and learned how goat wool is used.

Joey Ghotme, 8, said he learned about the relationships goats have with other animals.

"I learned that goats are really good friends with horses," said Joey, a third-grader at Sunrise Drive.

TRAK

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Memberships

The Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids offers one-year annual memberships for $100. The non-profit program accepts donations, which will be used to help children with membership fees. For more information, call 298-9808 or log on to the Web site traktucson.org.

● This article originally appeared Tuesday in the Star. Contact reporter Jamar Younger at 434-4076 or jyounger @azstarnet.com.