Students learn about farming firsthand

First Posted: 11/4/2014

Within the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s 32-foot long, green, mobile agriculture educational science laboratory are experiments waiting to happen.

Abington Heights Middle School students had their chance to learn and conduct experiments in the mobile lab on Oct. 28, 29, 30 and 31 in a nearby parking lot adjacent to the school.

On Oct. 29, Melissa Bruno’s fifth grade students rolled up their sleeves, figuratively speaking, and tried their hands at one of the experiments known as “Pigment Power.” Bruno, a science and math teacher said she thought that the Mobile Science Lab was a great program and when fifth grade teachers were able to pick which of the labs the students would be working with, they chose Pigment Power.

“This tied in perfectly with our Foss Science Mixtures and Solutions Module. The students worked cooperatively to solve a problem as they formed a hypothesis, collected data and drew conclusions…all through hands-on lab experiments,” she said. “Using different fruit beverages, students tested for the presence of Phytochemicals, naturally occurring plant chemicals that give plants their color and provide health benefits. The students had a lot of fun and gained an awareness and connection to agriculture that may not have formerly been there…It was a wonderful way to extend our science curriculum, to challenge the students, and to get them thinking about agriculture…”

Jane Wessner, farm bureau Ag Lab teacher, describes agriculture to her students as growing crops and raising animals to help students understand.

“It (agriculture) is a big word for farming, so I try to simplify it as much as possible,” she said. “We go into what agricultural provides for us when we harvest those crops and animals and the types of things are they made into” food, clothing, shelter made from wood, and medicines are a few of the examples she uses to help children understand the term.

“It’s teaching the kids that agriculture affects their lives every minute of the day and in so many different ways,” said Wessner.

Why is teaching children about agricultural so important? Wessner said the farm bureau’s mission is to teach children how important agricultural is because it is losing so much ground. “Every year there are so many acres lost to development and sometimes it’s a good planned development and other times it is scattered here and there…It’s just not going to work in the future as our population continues to grow…”

Parent volunteers Gina McCabe and Lauren Mahler of South Abington Township were also on hand to help to with the lesson.

According to Wessner, the science curriculum taught in the mobile science lab program, which is currently in its 11th year, meets Pennsylvania Department of Education Science & Technology and Environment & Ecology Standards and is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Six mobile labs currently in operation travel throughout Pennsylvania to elementary and middle schools that contract with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and offers hands-on activities related to agricultural concepts involving agricultural commodities.

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