Envirothon stimulates students

Initiative of a passionate teacher and the cooperation of many other teachers, PTA, a local restaurant and many volunteers resulted in a wonderful learning experience for a group of local first-graders.  It was like an envirothon for young students.

Envirothon?  It’s an educational competition for high school students designed to stimulate, reinforce and enhance interest in the environment and natural resources.  This annual outdoor, hands-on event does just that and I am glad that I was able to participate earlier this month.

Two of my fellow Farm Bureau members and I were at one of the six stations the students visited.  Charged with talking about agriculture, we used a great book, “How Did That Get In My Lunchbox,” by Chris Butterworth, to guide our discussion.  The book connects children to the food in their lunch-boxes by showing the effort and skill needed to produce food such as bread, cheese, apple juice and chocolate chip cookies.  We were surprised that most knew that farmers had to grow wheat which would be made into flour and then bread.  It was later in the day we found out that most of this knowledge was gained while playing a computer game called “Minecraft.”

When we asked them about the chocolate chip cookies and how it came from a farm, they were a little confused, thinking that a farmer could grow a cookie.  They soon caught on that farmers grew the ingredients in their cookies, like flour, sugar and cocoa beans.

We included discussion, as the book does, on how important are the truck drivers who transport products from the farm to the processing plants and then to the grocery stores.  As are those who work hard to process and get foods ready for consumers to buy.

The book also introduces the basic food groups, so we broke up into small groups to play a game.  Taking turns, they were able to choose a picture of a food and place it in the food group that they thought it belonged.  It was great to see how the children talked about the food and made their decisions.  It brought up discussion on different kinds of dairy products and vegetables.  Where do you put pizza?  Tomatoes are actually a fruit and strawberries are vegetables!

Wrapping up each 30-minute session, we played a game matching pictures of farm animal mamas with their babies.  Most were pretty easy, only getting hung up on the difference between a duckling and a gosling.  We added fun facts about the animals, like a mother pig could have up to 15 babies at one time an dhow the wool from the mother sheep was used to make cloth for clothing and other products.

One especially memorable moment came after playing this game.  We asked for questions and a little girl state that she was offended that a baby goat is called a kid.  After my initial bewilderment, I responded that baby goats had been called kids much longer than people her age, and if anyone should be offended, it should be the goats.

It was an awesome event that I wish every first-grader could experience.  Even though it was only 30 minutes of interaction, I believe we shared an important lesson.  I know I learned a thing or two as well, like I am not conditioned to be a full-time first-grade teacher, but I am ready to volunteer for next year’s event.  And that students still have a long way to go in education about milk – brown cows do not give chocolate milk!

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a Trumbull County Farm Bureau member, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.