Two thousand bees are stirring inside an observation hive a table away from Philip Rawson as he bites into a slice of pizza.
The 10-year-old is among dozens of Boy Scouts exploring wide-ranging topics including wildlife management, fire safety, insects and weather. It is
the second year for the Agriculture Merit Badge Day, an award-winning project of Jefferson County Farm Bureau.
“We did a lot of stuff and learned about acid rain and endangered species,” said Rawson, who spent the morning in an interactive session focused on environmental science. “I used to not be interested in that, but the Scouts really got me going.”
As for the bees, they are a project of John Grafton, a longtime apiarist and vice president of the county Farm Bureau. He sees the event as an opportunity for children to step away from a “fast-track” learning environment and simply explore the world around them.
“You’ve got to introduce kids to all the different elements,” he said. “It’s back to the basics.”
The idea for the program started with Jefferson County Farm Bureau President Duayne Wetherell and quickly grew as numerous volunteers offered support. Last year’s event received a County Activities of Excellence national award from American Farm Bureau.
Wetherell explains that each merit badge requires a sponsor who can serve as a subject matter expert. He thought who better than the county Farm Bureau to bring together the knowledge from organizations such as Ohio State University Extension, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Division of Wildlife.
“It’s been kind of a natural fit for us,” he said. “If we don’t do it, who will?”
While the event’s topics are not exclusive to farming, they are relevant to careers that could support the agriculture industry. The day also featured a “Cubby Camp,” where younger scouts learned about farm animals and gardening.
“So many people in the community have bought into this and are all working to make this happen,” said Jennifer Barnett, the county Farm Bureau office administrator. “It’s a huge list of organizations. That’s the cool thing.”
She hopes the concept will be expanded to other communities and would like to see it offered to Girl Scouts as well.
Lori Abraham, registrar for the Boy Scouts of America – Ohio River Valley Council, was thrilled to work with Wetherell to establish the program.
“Having someone who is an expert in their field, it is awesome for them to give their experience to the boys,” she said. “Things that they never thought they could do, they can at least attempt it.”
This not only helps the Scouts develop individually, she said, but they’re also going to influence the people around them.
By lunch, the Scouts were excitedly sharing with each other things they’ve learned – when to use baking soda to extinguish a fire or how to identify invasive bugs.
“You get a lot of good lessons from scouting,” said 10-year-old Luke Linscott. “It’s very fun.”
Featured images: Kids make troll gardens with supplies from Woodland Trails Greenhouse. (left), Cameron Best (blue ball cap) shares information on keeping poultry. (top right).