Maryâ€™s little lamb may have followed her to school, but that lamb was no educational llama. Exodus, the 14-year-old llama, went to Willoughby Elementary School May 22 to help kids better understand farm animals and rural roots.
Mark De Jong and his son Braedon spent their day at the school to talk to a number of classes about Exodus and what llamas are all about.
â€œDo you think llamas take showers?â€ De Jong asked Mrs. Aroraâ€™s Grade 1 and 2 class.
The shrieks of â€œnoâ€ and laughter that followed were part of the interaction De Jong was looking for.
â€œHeâ€™s done shows and stuff since he was six months old,â€ De Jong said of Exodus.
In fact he has won more shows than any other male llama in Canada and has been shown across Western Canada.
A member of the Langley Horse and Farm Federation, and a member of 4-H since he was nine, Mark is no stranger to showing animals and sharing information.
â€œItâ€™s about getting them more engaged,â€ Mark said of the students at Willoughby. â€œI always try to ask a lot of questions. A lot of times you can get half of the answers from the kids.â€
De Jong noted that itâ€™s important to connect kids to the rural features around them, to reconnect them to their roots and perhaps help them gain an interest they may not have otherwise had.
He pointed to 4-H as an option for kids even if they donâ€™t have the ability to keep an animal where they live.
â€œMaybe they keep an animal on [someone elseâ€™s] property, or maybe someone who lives in a townhouse takes up photography of animals,â€ he said, pointing to the various ways to get involved in 4-H and other similar programs.
With all the tools of llama care making up part of the show, De Jong and Braedon spoke about the llamaâ€™s origins, care, and mannerisms.
De Jong has owned llamas since 1992.
â€œWeâ€™ve had a lot of animals in our lives and the llamas are the easiest,â€ he said.