Tiffany Hoy wants children as young as preschoolers to understand how agriculture impacts their daily lives.
The assistant director for the Center for Professional Personnel Development for Career and Technical Education at Penn State University, Hoy recently coordinated a hands-on agricultural literacy day at PSU for students at St. Matthew School in Tyrone.
"If I can get students just to understand the concept that milk doesn't come from the grocery store, and lumber doesn't come from Home Depot," Hoy, whose son is a first-grader at St. Matthew, said. "It's all connected. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, we're all connected to the environment we live in."
St. Matthew student Reilly Ronan (left)?tries on protective bee-keeping equipment while fellow students (left to right)?Sarah Zakrzwski, Cory Lehman, chaperone Mrs. Wagner, chaperone Ms. Hockenberry Caden Brooks and Trinity Ansman look on.
Students from pre-school through sixth grade participated in the Nov. 19 field trip. Before the outing, some of the teachers at the school tied agriculture lessons into their science curriculums.
"This is the first time we've ever gone to Penn State and done something like this," St. Matthew Principal Melissa McMullen said. "We've gone on field trips, but it's never been so hands on."
McMullen said students need to be aware of agriculture because it is an important industry in the region.
"It's important for kids to know where their food comes from and to experience that," McMullen said. "Agriculture is very important in the state of Pennsylvania."
Each grade level attended a different workshop; the workshops covered entomology and forensics, among other branches of agriculture. For example, fourth-grade students attended a workshop on honeybees, where they saw a cross-section of a beehive and made candles out of beeswax.
"I'm sure it made them think about it a little more," Jamie DiDomenico, third- and fourth-grade teacher, said. "They learned how [honeybees] are important for the pollination of plants and plant growth, and the resulting fruits."
DiDomenico said the lessons not only taught the students about agriculture but also put the scientific method into play.
"We do experiments in the classroom," DiDomenico said. "And [the workshops] reinforced the idea of how you have to control everything but one item so you really know what's making the difference, what's being emphasized."
First-grade teacher Jennifer Casanave said the workshops were an educational tool to demonstrate the concepts she'd been teaching, such as the life cycle of a plant.
"It was more of an enrichment by then - it wasn't something brand new," Casanave said. "It was an enrichment activity that really sort of brought it home for them."
The materials Hoy and the agriculture education majors used were the 4-H curriculum PSU produces for county extension educators to use.
Last year, Hoy, who previously worked as an agriculture education teacher, took chicken eggs into St. Matthew to teach the preschool and first-grade students the basics of embryology.
"It taught them a lot about why you shouldn't disturb animals in nature," Hoy said. "It was about respecting nature and animals, like not chasing ducks off their nests."
It seems like the students understood the message. Hoy said she's overheard students discussing the agriculture lessons when she picks up her son, and McMullen overheard a lunchroom conversation between first- and second-graders.
"I heard them talking about something over lunch, in relation to where their food comes from," McMullen said. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, that's a neat conversation.'"
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.