Letting Your Imagination Run Wild, One Class at a Time

By Anna Yee

July 27, 2011 Updated Jul 27, 2011 at 10:09 PM CDT

The One Class at a Time $1,000 grant awarded to Knoxville Center for Student Success has got students' imaginations running wild.

The alternative school's 5th through 8th graders are learning alternatively, by horseback.

"As the principal, the most fun part about it, what really warms my heart is that I get to see kids in a totally different light," said Donna O'Day, the school principal.

"We have a school day that brings up certain tensions and even conflicts with middle schoolers, and we came out to the farm, and I saw these very same kids happy and laughing and running and just really enjoying their time."

Trips to this Peoria County farm started with this man, Jeorge Brown.

He founded the River City Rough Riders outreach program years ago.
Now he's sharing it with these students.

"Not all kids are athletes or scholars," said Brown. "Some of them are naturalists and animal lovers, and it's just a pretty good environment for children to be in. It's safe, away from the madness that's going on in the inner city right now. And they really get a kick out of it."

It also gets kids involved in lessons no classroom can create.

"You really do see a difference, because the kids get out here, and they have to work for a common purpose," said O'Day. "When they came out, he puts them to work. They have to put the hayrack ride together and chop wood for the bonfire and get the horses ready to ride."

Principal O'Day says the program kicked off last year, and since then, about 100 students have taken part in something the alternative school is making the norm.

"Horseback riding is part of out curriculum, almost like math reading science," said O'Day. "It helped immensely to have the grant."