County third graders learn aspects of ag

Hood River County School District third graders had the opportunity to visit Hood River Valley High School on May 29 for a field day highlighting the various aspects of the high school’s agricultural department.

The annual Touch and See Day brought students from Westside, May Street and Mid Valley elementary schools to the HRV ag lab (Parkdale and Cascade Locks were also invited, but unable to attend). Students had the opportunity to see and touch animals, create living necklaces and growing bracelets, and take a hayride around campus, among other activities.

The students — both high schoolers and third graders — have a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of learning as well. Adviser Nita Bozarth said students in FFA (Future Farmers of America) plan the event using curriculum from Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC).

“The lessons are timeless,” she said of Oregon AITC. “We plan for 300 kids and we get about that.

“There’s a lot of take home stuff (with the lessons),” she added. “My favorite are the dirt babies — they’re kind of like Chia Pets.”

The high schoolers are responsible for all of the lessons.

“They do everything. Some bring their animals from home,” Bozarth said.

Other stations included animal digestion, using a slice of bread and soda pop to demonstrate how acid breaks down food. And from this reporter’s perspective, a favorite was daring each other to touch the ducks contentedly swimming in a kiddie pool — there were a lot of misses, but a few brave souls did manage to make quick feather contact. Getting to climb on (and pretend to drive) the tractor also seemed to be a highlight for the kids.

Lacayla Kelly, a junior, was one of the 30 FFA members who planned the event. For her, it’s about giving the younger kids a chance to see what is available to them at the high school level.

“Maybe they want animals, but they can’t keep them at home — they can keep them here and be in different ag classes,” she explained. “Some of the kids (who come to the event) have never seen sheep and goats before. It gives them an idea of what they can do.

“We have a lot of animals here that belong to students, who show them at the fair,” she added.

Nicole Ligon, Westside Elementary third grade teacher, said this was her third Touch and See Day.

“The kids ask so many great questions and make so many cool connections after this,” she said. “It’s an introduction to the ag department, and they learn where their food is sourced.”

Bozarth said that there is also a literacy component to the day, this year involving the origins of the John Deere tractor; teachers took copies of the book back to the classroom to share further with their students.

“We focus it all on literacy,” she said.

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