Melvin Smith of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau wants children to know where their food and everyday items come from.
On Monday, Smith brought the Ag Lab one of six Farm Bureau trailers that travel across Pennsylvania to Youngsville Elementary Middle School for the week so students in grades kindergarten through eighth can get a hands-on science lesson.
"Young people have no idea where their food, clothing and stuff comes from," Smith said.
Times Observer photos by Ben Klein
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureaus Ag Lab, a mobile education science lab, designed to help students make the connection between agriculture and food on their table, will remain at Youngsville Elementary Middle School throughout the week. Students in Mrs. Jaquith’s sixth-grade science class learn how to make plastic from corn on Monday. Students in grades kindergarten through eighth-grade will visit the lab throughout the week.
So, as part of the Ag Lab, students will spend the week in different lessons, including Banana DNA, Forest & Me, Colorful Bean and Feast Like a Bug.
While in the Ag Lab students are asked to think about everyday products, such as clothing, CDs and bicycles that are made with products produced on a farm.
Students in Mrs. Jaquith's science class spent a class in the Ag Lab for the Corn to Plastic lesson, where students learned about bio-disintegration. It's something, Smith said, students can do right at home.
"The whole goal was to teach them that the packing foams can be made out of a biodegradable material or it can be made with one that we just fill the landfills with or pollute the air when we burn it," Smith said holding a package of corn-made packing materials. "It rains this afternoon, I put that outside it biodisinegrates; it will not be there. It's just 100 percent corn."
While students are conducting their experiments with corn syrup and starch, they are working their way through the scientific method.
"The neat part of this is, this whole project is, when their eyes light up," Smith said.
Seventh- and eighth-graders will work their way through a little more advanced lessons about DNA.
"They take a banana, and they will break it down and they will actually see the DNA on the chromosomes and the genes," Smith said. "I'll shut the lights out, they'll hold it up to the window and they'll actually see the banana DNA."
Work in the Ag Lab is meant to supplement work in the classroom, where teachers can use the hands-on experiments to further the lessons.
The whole idea is to get students to learn many products and items they use daily are made with products from a farm.
"It's awareness that it doesn't just come from the store," Smith said. "The everyday things. You won't believe especially younger children, 'What's pizza got to do with farming?' And I'm able when I get done to show them that pizza, four farmers made that pizza. Grain, gardener, dairy farmer and pig farmer. And that's the whole purpose."