It’s an ‘Ag-Citing’time
By KRISS NELSON
NEWELL – Fourth-graders from throughout Buena Vista County took to an outdoor classroom last week for the annual Ag-Citing field trip held at the Allee Resarch Farm.
Nichol Kleespies, Buena Vista County youth education coordinator, said Ag-Citing is an agricultural event designed for fourth-graders.
This age, she said, is chosen due to the fact they have been given enough of a science background to be able to read more about their agricultural education once they leave the field day. It is also an opportunity, she said, to be a launching point in their classroom to continue to learn more as they read through their course work.
“We invite all of the fourth-graders in Buena Vista County, and we just really want them to get an oppportunity to touch agriculture in a real way,” said Kleespies. “Many of our sessions are hands-on. They learn about everything from eggs, to bees, to corn. They get to pet animals and learn how to care for them, so it really just gives them a chance to have the opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience with agriculture.”
Kleespies said this is the 18th year for Ag-Citing.
“We continue to have great community support,” she said. “Iowa Corn Growers Association donates the lunch and grills for the students Farm Bureau donated money for food and coloring books. We have support from Farm Credit providing ice cream bars in the afternoon and staff. Our banks share their staff to help lead classrooms around for the day as well. We appreciate the community support.”
Kleespies said more than400 students come to the field day.
“Not only is the Allee Research Farm a huge support with Lyle Rossiter, the farm’s superintendent, but our community steps up as presenters and guides,” she said.
Throughout the day, the students attend 10 different workshops covering such topics as “Power of the Wind,” “Live to Hive,” “Alien Invaders,” “CORN it’s so Amazing,” “Groovy Grain,” “Exploring Animals,” the bio-fuels trailer, “Soil and Water Run-Off Race,” monarch butterflies and “Egg-Citing Eggs.”
Mike Moats, educator with the Bio-Fuels Mobile Education Center took the time to explain to the students what bio-fuels are and the process of making ethanol.
Although a few students mistook the truck and trailer for a taco truck, they soon switched directions and took on the learning opportunity.
“Bio means life and fuel means energy,” said Moats. “Bio-fuels means energy that comes from life.”
Moats explained to the children that with Iowa’s two major crops, corn and soybeans, comes two different types of bio-fuels.
“We process soybeans into soy-diesel and another type of bio-fuel we make a lot of here in Iowa is ethanol,” he said.
Lynne Campbell, with the Iowa State University Department of entomotomy presented about the monarch butterfly and its migration movement.
The migration movement, she explained, sends the monarch butterflies to the mountains of Mexico City where they will remain for eight months before they begin to migrate back up north. Several life cycles happen throughout this process.
“Butterflies we have here right now have never been to Mexico before, but they know to go,” said Campbell.
She said the total area that monarch butterflies occupy in the mountains around Mexico City has dropped drastically.
Because the population has dropped so dramatically, Campbell said that is why research is being done. In the meantime, Campbell told the students they can help by growing milkweed for the monarch butterfly catepillar to eat and plant flowers that bloom in the fall for the monarch butterflies to feed on, in order to make their way to Mexico.
Taking the classroom outside
Jay Anderson, fourth grade teacher for the Storm Lake public schools, enjoys the opportunity to take his students to the Allee Research Farm.
“Anytime you can take the classroom out in to the real world is a good opportunity for our kids,” he said. “They have been talking about this for the last week and all of the things they are going to see. There was a lot of unknowns and they were ver y excited.”
A large part of the Ag-City field day, Anderson said is having the chance to expose students to something they don’t see or have experienced before.
“In my class I have had one student that has lived on the farm,” he said. “They got their eyes open and were excited to see. It was a good day for them.”
Jane Larson also had her fourth grade students attend Ag-Citing.
“They’re so excited about this,” she said. “A lot of these students are raised in town, so they don’t have the farm background. I think it’s a good thing for them to come out, so they learn where it is their food is coming from and see a working farm.”
Larson added the education received during the field trip also coordinates along with the fourth graders’ social studies curriculum.
“When we do the regions, a lot of this ties in very nicely with conversations we have back in the classroom,” she said.
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