Emu farmer brings life to lesson about Australia


April 26, 1999|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FROM NOSE TO TOES everything goes when it comes to the emus at Roy Arce's farm in Pleasant Valley.

"One hundred percent useful these emus are," Arce recently told second-graders he visited at Friendship Valley Elementary School.

They mulled that comment while watching two chicks romp on hay piled in the middle of the room.

It was cool to see the emu's large, dark egg and know that it is not only edible (boiling it takes an hour and a half), but it could also be turned into an exquisite Faberge egg and sold for $20 to $700.

It was also cool to imagine that the two peeping chicks would grow to be 5 feet to 6 feet tall, weigh as much as 150 pounds, be able to run at 40 mph and have a kick as powerful as a horse's. All that information was fathomable.

Yet when it came down to the "Italian Emu Patties" and "Emu Cuts for the Cook" order forms, and the necklace made out of Emu toes displayed on the table in the back of the room, it was TMI -- too much information -- for some of the pupils.

Despite Arce's fascinating facts about emus as livestock, the children's questions revealed their idyllic perceptions of how the emu world should be: Did he name the emus on his farm? Do they get to know him and show affection? What do they eat? How long do they live?

Arce, the president of the Maryland Emu Association and a veritable encyclopedia of emu facts, included the information the pupils were eager to hear.

Yes, he does name a few of the emus who stay and live on the farm -- he has Adam and Eve, Tina, Turner and Ted, as well as George and Gracie. These "pets" could live as long as 25 to 30 years, and they can be quite affectionate.

The 80 emus raised as livestock eat grains and usually stick around Arce's farm for 12 to 14 months.

Arce's visit was the highlight of the second-grade pupils' unit about Australia.

His presentation armed them with pieces of emu trivia that few people know: the emu is a ratite, or flightless bird; it is the only species that lays a green egg; its meat tastes like beef; emus lay one egg every three or four days during the winter.

If Arce doesn't collect the eggs between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., the males will sit on them and expect to stay until the hatching period is over 50 days later.

"Maybe one of these children will grow up to raise emus, or some other livestock one day," Arce said about his visit to Friendship Valley.

"That would be great."

Voracious reader

A 20th-century dinosaur came to Robert Moton Elementary School this year. The new species? A Readersaurus named Readzilla with an appetite for books.

Pupils kept him at bay and well-fed by reading at home for at least 15 minutes, five times a week, October through March. The more they read -- and many read much more -- the bigger Readzilla grew. The pupils' knowledge and reading skills grew, too.

Each week, pupils turned in coupons to "feed" Readzilla and to earn prizes like coupons from Pizza Hut and books. The fourth-grade classes logged the most reading time.

The top two readers in each grade were:

Preschool: Joseph Jayman and Jordan Sell.

Kindergarten: Suprit Singh and Brittany Zentz.

First grade: Cody Clinton and Katie Raith.

Second grade: Alexandra Tyler and Daniel Robertson.

Third grade: Dejah Barnett and Chad Boyer.

Fourth grade: Max Raith and Coy Boone.

Fifth grade: Caitlyn Byrne and Brook Finneran.

Pupils who read the most were:

First place, Max Raith; second place, Caitlyn Byrne; third place, Dejah Barnett.

Donations from local businesses supported this reading program.

The school thanks Bonds Meadow Rotary Club, Cranberry Mall, Dorling Kindersley Family Learning, Locust Books, Masonry Macks Homes Inc., Taneytown Bank and Trust, and The Baltimore Sun Co.

Lisa Breslin's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of the Sun.

Pub Date: 4/26/99

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