Second-grader Natalie Endjilian edged behind her classmates to escape the squat billy goat straining at its leash to sniff the youngster's flowered skirt.
"I think they can kick you," Natalie said.
But 4-H club member Sarah Clayton assured the children that the 3-year-old pygmy goat--known as Patty--does not kick or bite. In fact, Clayton, 15, takes Patty for a walk in the desert near Lancaster every day after school.
Patty visited Balboa Elementary School students recently as part of a Farm Day sponsored by the Glendale Unified School District and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
Potbellied pigs, peacocks, baby geese and turkeys, dairy goats, lambs and a 1-year-old 200-pound Suffolk ewe joined horses, chickens and dwarf rabbits in a miniature petting zoo assembled on the children's playground.
Many students were shy around the animals, asking if it was all right to pet them and querying their owners about life on a farm. Others were braver and stepped up to ask 4-H members why a baby donkey--who was really a goat--let his keeper hold him.
As fifth-grader Alexis Allen leaned in to get a better look at the enormous Suffolk ewe known as Squirrel, the sheep let out a dismayed bellow.
"She sounds like a cow," Allen said. "And she's so very, very big."
It's important to show children that the milk they drink, clothes they wear and food they eat are made from real, live animals, said Debra Vandiver.
Vandiver owns Squirrel and transported the ewe, along with two pigs, baby turkeys, chickens and three goats, in a van from the high desert east of Palmdale to visit Balboa Elementary.
Children who grow up in the city do not understand what farmers do, said Don Fiske, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom representative and Farm Day coordinator.
Many kids have never seen a cow before and think that milk is manufactured at the grocery store, he said, adding that Farm Day is designed to dispel many of these myths.
A caged male peacock convinced third-grader Arin Aghakhani that the peacock feathers he had at home had at one time actually been attached to a multicolored fowl.
"I thought he would be smaller--his tail sure is long," Aghakhani said.