Ag in the Classroom
According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize over 45 million acres, or about 92% of the state’s total land area. During 2013, Nebraska had almost 50,000 farms and ranches with the average operation consisting of about 900 acres (www.nda.nebraska.gov). In addition, one of four jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture. Simply put, in the Cornhusker State, agriculture is vital.
Because agriculture is such an important part of our lives, we wanted our 4th graders to learn more about it. This year, we are participating in the program Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom through Farm Bureau. This program is designed to help students understand the importance of agriculture and create an awareness of how agriculture impacts our daily lives. Through this program, the students are learning about harvesting crops (mostly corn and soybeans) as well as the basics of beef and dairy cattle and swine through online lessons via Skype with the Ag Coordinator of the program. An additional part of this program includes an Ag Pen Pal. Our 4th graders were paired with the Lundeen family from Minden, NE. The goal is for the students to write letters back and forth with the family, learning about daily life on the farm and all of the ins-and-outs of harvesting and planting. In the first part of November we wrote our first letter.
To assist the students in writing their first letter, we thought it would be fun and educational to actually visit a farm right around our area. On November 9th, we took a field trip to the Schroder farm, just north of Palmyra. Kevin & Denise Schroder raise corn, soybeans and wheat and also have cattle and hogs. On our trip, the students were able to get their hands dirty during many different hands-on activities. First, they observed all the different steps of harvesting and processing corn, from the field to the grain bin and making it into feed. Each 4th grader had a chance to shuck an ear of corn by hand to show them just how much work it really is and how much time it saves farmers if they use a combine instead. After they shucked the corn and shelled the kernels, the students got to see what ground up corn looked like. Farmer Kevin also gave them the task of picking apart the soybean pods and counting how many beans each pod held.
Next, the students had the opportunity to view the equipment needed during harvest and take an up-close tour of these giant machines! Two lucky students, Korban & Karter Nider, were chosen to go for a ride in the combine as Farmer Kevin finished harvesting a small patch of corn. Once the patch was picked, they boys helped unload the combine into a grain cart. The students watching were amazed at the how fast the corn was rushing out of the auger! Mr. Schroder then explained the process of what happens to the corn once he loads it onto the semi.
In addition to seeing the crops, the students were also able to see the livestock Mr. Schroder had on his farm. The students ventured over to a carrier loaded with a few hogs. It was enlightening for them to hear Farmer Kevin explain how his swine operation is run. Students also got a glimpse of the inside of one of the hog sheds. Many of the students had never seen pigs up close so the comments they made about the smell were quite entertaining! J A couple of weaned calves was the next sight to see on the list. Mr. Schroder explained the process of weaning calves and why cows are a vital part of his farm.
The final and favorite activity on the farm was jumping on the hay bales. Farmer Kevin explained how the bales were made and showed them the machinery required to create bales of that magnitude. The students had a blast climbing on top of them and jumping from one to the next. Many of them couldn’t believe how tall they were! They also had the great pleasure of experiencing the dust that is associated with wheat harvest! J
As you can see, the students learned a lot of new information about agriculture through the hands on learning during the activities. They had a wonderful time and had many insightful questions for Farmer Kevin to answer! Stay tuned for more adventures from our Ag in the Classroom experiences!