Agriculture’s Impact on Life Highlights Science in Ag DayThu, 07 May 2015 15:53:08 CDT
Twenty students raced to the first station at the Noble Foundation’s Science in Ag Day and took their places on hay bales. Little did they know, they had just sat on their first lesson.
“Did you know you are sitting on agriculture?” asked Dillon Payne, Noble Foundation cartographer and irrigation associate, who is leading the “picnic basket” station. Most shook their heads “no,” which is a common answer. “Yes, those hay bales are one of countless products you use every day that are produced by agriculture,” Payne said.
Payne then dug into the picnic basket and held up various fruits and vegetables, asking the students to identify each item’s origin. Simple questions. Simple answers. Then Payne pulled sunglasses out of the basket. “I bet you didn’t know that these are a result of agriculture, too,” he said.
“I wear agriculture every day in ways that I never would have thought of – even with my glasses,” said Jaiden McCurley, 14. “That’s awesome. I had no idea that agriculture is in the items we use every day.”
That’s what Science in Ag Day is all about – learning how agriculture provides our food, clothing and shelter. McCurley was just one of more than 250 eighth graders from five schools across south-central Oklahoma who attended the Noble Foundation's fifth annual Science in Ag Day on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The educational event is designed to get youth thinking about agriculture by emphasizing the importance of proper management of natural resources and demonstrating the impact the industry has on almost every facet of society, from food to the economy.
"One hundred years ago, 40 percent of the United States workforce was employed in agriculture. Today, that number is less than 2 percent," said Frank Hardin, Noble Academy education and outreach manager. "As each generation passes, we're appreciating agriculture less. Educating our youth, especially concerning food production, is critical for our future."
During the day, students from Ardmore, Dickson, Greenville, Plainview and Turner schools rotated among a series of stations. Each stop featured a unique agriculture- or science-related discipline, including wildlife, forages, horticulture, livestock, plant breeding and soils. Each area brought a new hands-on experience.
At the soils station, students learned the importance of healthy soil. A hundred yards away, another group planted their own take-home strawberries as part of their horticulture lesson, while others participated in a science experiment about polymers. In addition to the hands-on agricultural demonstrations, students participated in scientific research, including a plant breeding presentation where they learned how Noble Foundation scientists improve crops through DNA and protein extraction.
"There are so many facets to agriculture, and Science in Ag Day gives them the opportunity to experience it all," said Jackie Jones, Plainview Middle School science teacher. "This event gives the students more in-depth lessons on things they have briefly learned about in the classroom through Noble Academy. It gets them thinking more about everyday things. This is an opportunity they may not get elsewhere, and it’s important they learn about agriculture as they are our future decision makers and leaders.”
And the students aren’t the only ones learning. “This is not my first time to attend Science in Ag Day,” said Dennis Tolbert, science teacher at Ardmore Middle School, “but I’ve learned some new ways to tie in agriculture to my lessons in class.”
Still, the focus remains on student learning. The day impacted many of their perceptions about the vital – and often overseen – role of agriculture. "Without agriculture, we wouldn’t have much," McCurley said. "We probably wouldn’t even be here today. It definitely makes you think twice."
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