ORWELL TOWNSHIP — “There’s horses.” “Tractors and combines.” Chicken, pigs, cows, too.
“They grow a lot of vegetables!”
Northeast Bradford kindergarten students were telling Paula Brennan some things they knew about farms. Then they learned some more.
Brennan is visiting the school this week with the Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab. Sponsored by the Friends of Agriculture through the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the lab visits schools around the state to teach youngsters lessons about farming.
“Its purpose is just to go out into the community … and to teach them about agriculture and how agriculture affects their everyday lives,” Brennan explained. They talk about food and other products and subjects related to agriculture.
“We do — Oh my gosh! — there’s so many activities!” she said.
Students from kindergarten through eighth grade are visiting the lab in groups. The camper-like lab is parked outdoors and can be pulled behind a vehicle. Inside, counters run lengthwise down both walls with shelves beneath holding plastic tubs filled with items students use for the activities. Farm Bureau has six labs covering different parts of the state.
This week, students are having lessons like: Science of Chocolate; Glue from Milk; Snack Attack; Magical Bean; Feast Like a Bug; Genetics; and No Soil, Now What? They learn about hydroponics, fat levels in snacks, reading nutrition labels, water testing and more.
Above the counters, posters show raw farm products, how they’re processed and what they may become. One titled “Dairy” shows a picture of cows, milking machines, a milk truck and a milk plant, and attached to it are containers for things like yogurt, butter, cheese and cream cheese you’d buy in a store. It even holds an artificial slice of pizza, glass of milk and ice cream stick. “Poultry” is divided into “layers” and “broilers,” with a fake chicken on each side along with eggs, chicken wings and chicken tenders.
Brennan had the kindergarteners sit on the floor. “What if I said to you pizza comes from a farm?” she asked. She explained pepperoni’s from a pig, cheese is made from milk from cows, the red stuff’s sauce from tomatoes and the crust is made from flour, from wheat.
Next, she read a story about Little Red Hen making pizza, as she wore a chicken puppet on her hand. One day, the hen decided to bake a pizza. “So, she scratched through her cupboard.” Little Red Hen didn’t have everything she needed, so she kept going to the store and buying ingredients, then cut them up and baked the pizza. All along, she kept asking her friends — a pig, horse and sheep — if they wanted to help. “No!” they answered — with assistance from teachers and staff holding their own puppets.
When the pizza was done, though, the other animals did say they’d eat with Little Red Hen and even helped her clean up.
After the story, Brennan told the youngsters walk beside the counters and pick up pizza “ingredients,” and things needed to produce them, put them in small bags, and attach them to strings and wear them as necklaces. The ingredients were real and simulated, like unbrewed coffee for dirt, blue glitter for water, real wheat and flour, tiny sparkly cows, fake cheese and real spices. They ended with tiny artificial evergreens — after all, a pizza needs a box made from paper, made from trees.
“I learned to make a pizza!” student Chloe Neville declared after the lesson. She herself lives on a farm and even shows a cow.
The ag lab’s visit to Northeast was made possible by donations from community members. “We are so thankful for those people that were able to donate to support this,” elementary Principal Steve Webster commented later.
The district plans to have more and more ag-related education in the future, he noted. “We have a new greenhouse going in at the high school and the old one will come to the elementary.” The elementary also plans to start a hydroponics class, and the high school hopes to offer certification in drone-flying, which can be used in the gas industry, farming and water studies.
The dairy industry’s struggling, Webster admitted. “But agriculture is more than just dairy,” he said and explained People are looking at these other options.
The school needs to consider: “How do we help the next generation move into a technology-based agriculture?” he explained. “And it’s our job to help get them ready for that.”
Northeast is thankful and grateful for the ag lab’s visit, he said. It lets students do something outside the classroom and have a STEM-like activity. “It’s another avenue for us to teach the children.”
Donors who made the ag lab’s visit possible are: The Bradford Sullivan County Farm Bureau, Rick and Lisa Upham, First Citizens Community Bank, Kyle and Ginger Howland, Karla and the late Russell Howland, Edwin and Louise Eastman, Chris and Martha Young, the Bradford Sullivan County Farm Bureau in memory of Doug Young, the Neville family, the Northeast Bradford Education Foundation and the Pennsylvania Soybean Board.