"When I used to think about agriculture, I'd think about just animals and hay," said Jessie Pullen, 14. "But now I see that it is so much more. It has economics, wildlife, conservation and science in it. It's all really cool stuff."
Pullen was one of more than 220 seventh- and eighth-grade students who participated in the Noble Research Institute's second annual Science in Ag Day.
During the two-day event this spring, students from eight southern Oklahoma school districts rotated through a series of stations designed to get youth thinking about agriculture.
Each stop featured a unique agriculture- or science-related discipline, including economics, forages, genetics, horticulture, livestock, plant breeding and soils. Each station emphasized the importance of proper management of natural resources and demonstrated the impact the industry has on almost every facet of society from food to the economy. Each area also brought a new, hands-on experience.
At the sound of "Go," two 14-year-old boys quickly dipped bright yellow buckets into tubs of water and dashed 15 yards, splashing their contents into a second set of bins before racing back and passing their bucket to a teammate. The students' excitement grew more intense as each of the 20 legs of the relay race passed, all the while learning a valuable lesson about agriculture. The race ended with a final splatter of water and more excitement from the winning team.
Will Moseley and Steven Smith, wildlife and fisheries consultants at the Noble Research Institute, incorporated a relay race to make their water conservation lesson fun and competitive.
When asked if the students realized they use 20 gallons of water in a 10-minute shower, they became quiet. "I had no idea that I used that much water every day," said Sierra Parker, later in the day. "It's the small, everyday things you don't think about that have a big impact on our world."
At the soils station, students collected and identified insects. A hundred yards away, another group planted strawberries to take home as part of their horticulture lesson, while others participated in a live auction that taught fundamental economic principles. "Science in Ag Day reinforces many of the lessons we've been teaching them," said Wendy Russell, math teacher at Oak Hall Episcopal School in Ardmore. "We want our students to have these experiences so they can increase their awareness about the importance of agriculture, which is part of our heritage here in Oklahoma. They also get a chance to see the types of careers available."
In addition to the hands-on agricultural demonstrations, students participated in scientific research, including a plant breeding presentation where they learned how Noble scientists improve crops and an experiment to extract the DNA of a banana. "The students think they know what agriculture is, but they've never considered all the science and math involved," said Todd Vinyard, science teacher at Davis Middle School. "There are so many facets to agriculture, and Science in Ag Day gives them the opportunity to experience it all."