Agri Bus teaches elementary students to appreciate farmers, understand where food comes from

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By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

Ten-year-olds Rylie Miller and Nathan Whitaker had a slight edge on fellow fourth-graders when the Kentucky agricultural bus pulled up for an in-school field trip at Wellington Elementary. Both have had some experience with country life, crops, and critters.

“My grandparents grow vegetables like cabbage and lettuce, and on their farm they have horses and cows and pigs. It’s an easier way to live,” Nathan said during a break.

Rylie herself once lived near a farm that grew wheat and raised cattle. She made a connection when she found Doritos in one activity station on the bus.

Students who live in the city often are disconnected from how their food is grown and prepared, with their first point of contact in shopping for groceries (Photo Provided)

Students who live in the city often are disconnected from how their food is grown and prepared, with their first point of contact in shopping for groceries (Photo Provided)

“The chips I like come from wheat and corn, and I didn’t really know that,” she said.

STEM lab instructor Nami Stager arranged for G.A.B.I.E. (Great American Bus Interactive Education), which provides a hands-on experience that leads students from seed to dinner table. Bus owner Leslie Dickinson and colleague Amber Wedding, dressed in a queen bee costume, opened with a brief description of how bees produce honey and pollinate flowers and plants.

Groups of students then rotated through the retrofitted school bus, where nearly a dozen activity stations explained the production of cotton, grapes, hay, and other crops, the state’s equine and poultry industries, and the difference between dairy cows and beef cattle.

Meanwhile outside, youngsters took turns grinding flour and planted vegetable seeds in Dixie cups as they reviewed the four essentials: seeds, soil, water, and sunlight.

“Our main goal is to teach them what crops grow here and why it’s important to them. What they see growing in the fields around Central Kentucky puts food on their table, and we take them through that process,” said Dickinson, whose five-member team has visited several local schools since February, including Mary Todd and James Lane Allen elementaries.

In the STEM lab at Wellington, Stager will tie it all together with lessons like how engineering has impacted agriculture, including the development of robotic bees to help pollinate crops.

“Students need to understand the process and learn about how farming impacts the global marketplace. They also should understand why buying local food helps our state financially,” Stager said.

She noted how students who live in the city often are disconnected from how their food is grown and prepared, with their first point of contact in shopping for groceries.

“We all take for granted that we can find fresh food at a store so easily,” Stager said. “I want the students to learn an appreciation for the farmers and the groups that work incredibly hard to bring us fresh products every day.”

Tammy L. Lane is editor of the Fayette County Public Schools website.

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