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Billy Greedy Goat mows weeds and helps teach science to St. Louis students

Kate Grumke
St. Louis Public Radio
Crossroads students Sam Condren and Ellory Steinbach measure a goat's culinary progress in the school's rain garden on Wednesday. The goats are serving double duty as landscapers and science experiment.

Billy Greedy Goat was diligently munching away in a thick tangle of plants in front of Crossroads College Prep in St. Louis on Wednesday morning.

Normally, Billy GG is a vegetation remover and fertilizer for Just Us Goats, a natural landscaping service. But this week, he and his goat colleagues are also working as AP environmental science teaching assistants.

The class’s actual teacher, Howard Granok, saw an opportunity in the landscaping project for a hands-on science experiment.

“What we're doing is really some measurements to see how effective the goats are at removing the plants we want removed from our rain garden,” Granok said.

Last week, the AP students measured the rain garden’s foliage to get an idea of where the goats were starting. They even got aerial shots of the garden using a drone.

Normally, the rain garden helps absorb stormwater runoff. It’s full of plants native to Missouri, but Granok said some were particularly aggressive and had started to choke out other plants the school wanted in the garden.

On Wednesday, AP students Sam Condren and Ellory Steinbach were wrestling with a large orange tape measure, trying to make sure the goats didn’t eat it instead of the plants.

“They seem to be very fond of the long, tall grasses, the Johnson grass, and that's the most invasive species that we currently have in our garden,” Steinbach said. “So we're glad that they're getting rid of those, but I'm excited to see which other ones they're going to choose.”

Kate Grumke
St. Louis Public Radio
Crossroads student August Rosenhoffer sketches a goat in art class on Wednesday.

As Condren and Steinbach took their measurements, students from an art class drew the goats. Augusta Rosenhoffer sketched a solid white goat, appropriately named White Goat.

Condren, a junior, has been surprised by Granok’s class so far.

“I thought we were just going to learn about the environment and environmental policy,” Condren said. “But Howard's had us do a lot of labs and hands-on activities.”

This summer, Condren participated in a Washington University program for high school students in scientific field skills. After high school, he’s considering going into an environmental science career in a field like carbon capture.

He’s glad the goats have gotten everyone at Crossroads outside to learn this week.

“It's been a very fun experience for the school as a whole,” Condren said. “It's brought the community together again after COVID.”

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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