Ag Ed offers students first-hand look at farm life

Matt Gardner
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Local elementary school students are getting an up-close-and-personal look this week at where the food on their plate comes from.

Approximately 750 children from more than a dozen schools on Tuesday and Wednesday are attending the Ag Ed showcase, an annual opportunity organized by the Prince Albert Exhibition Association to help students in Grades 3 to 5 learn about agricultural production in Saskatchewan.

“Some of these kids don’t ever see animals … or even know where their food comes from,” P.A. Ex assistant manager and livestock show co-ordinator Patty Soloducha said.

“Ourselves as an agricultural society, (we) find it very important to get that message out there on how their food gets from the … pasture or grass or ground to their plate.”

A mainstay in Prince Albert for the last 20 years, the Ag Ed showcase for the last four years has been an all-day event for the children with lunch provided.

All the schools involved preregistered for Ag Ed after Soloducha sent out information in January. Students are divided into groups and move through a variety of stations, spending an average of 10 to 12 minutes at each stop.

The stations offer information on a variety of agriculture-related topics, including hands-on encounters with barnyard animals. Examples include farm equipment, sheep, poultry, beef, pigs, light horse and heavy horse -- the latter historically being a crucial component of Saskatchewan agriculture.

“Heavy horse is important because that’s how most of the west was ploughed,” Soloducha said.

“They use those big draft horses to plough the fields so they can plant the grain and get the hay to feed the animals that would give them their food and things for the winter, and it just kind of how it evolved from then to what it is now.”

The stations also focus on less obvious animals related to agriculture, such as bees.

“Bees of course (are) important because they pollinate lots of the stuff that we produce -- so any of your hay, lots of your grains that are out in the field are pollinated by the bees,” Soloducha said. “So that’s important for them to learn that … that does have an impact on their food today.”

This year’s showcase boasted at least two new attractions for the students.

One was a station on agricultural byproducts -- referred to as a “Byproducts Bingo” -- that taught children about the surprising animal-based origins for many common household items.

Ourselves as an agricultural society, (we) find it very important to get that message out there on how their food gets from the … pasture or grass or ground to their plate. Patty Soloducha

“Some things that they may think are useless  … we actually do use them to make certain products … For instance, hooves are used to make marshmallows,” Soloducha said.

“There are just different things like that that they wouldn’t associate -- that this product would produce this, which in turn is what you use as nail polish or hair spray, stuff like that. There’s an end result comes from an animal or something from a ways back.”

The other new station shone light onto dairy products by offering a milking demonstration, in which a staff member put an automated milker on a cow.

“We can only do that twice a day, just because you can’t milk a cow every single group,” Soloducha noted.

Students and teachers alike appeared to be enjoying the activities on Tuesday at the Archie Anderson Pavilion.

Red Wing School Grade 4 teacher Lisa Campbell said her students had learned a lot about the different kinds of crops grown in Saskatchewan, as well as the different kinds of animals on provincial farms.

“The day’s been great,” Campbell said. “The kids are interacting with a lot of farmers. They’re learning a lot about animals and also just agriculture in general.”

Meanwhile, Birch Hills School Grade 4 teacher Kim Kuperis said her own students had learned much about chicken farming and enjoyed the chance to hold some chicks.

“This is my second year coming here and the kids always have an enjoyable time,” Kuperis said. “They love all the animals and they love the hands-on experience that they get.”

Reactions from the students themselves validated her assessment.

“I had a blast,” said Carissa Ward, age 10.

Jake Sand, 9, noted, “I liked the cows the best because I grew up with them … We talked about their skulls and how many teeth they have.”

Soloducha expressed her hope that the students would take home what they would learned from the showcase.

“I just want them to go home and say, ‘Hey, I know how that was made,’ or they have some connection of how something was made that they’re going to eat tonight at the supper table,” she said.

“That’s my goal is for them to realize how important agriculture is.”

Organizations: Prince Albert Exhibition Association, Wing School Grade, Birch Hills School Grade

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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