Interactive farming trailer a big hit
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:30 PM
Popular trailer lets students experience milking, wheat grinding, more
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A trailer featuring specially designed modules that teach school children about farming has proven so successful that Idaho Farm Bureau Federation recently added another one.
Each "Moving Agriculture into the Classroom" trailer contains items such as a fiberglass cow that can be milked, a wheat grinder used by children to make their own flour which is turned into pancakes in the classroom, and a water module that demonstrates water's journey from the mountains to the farm.
The MAC trailer debuted last year and demand quickly soared from teachers around the state, said Kimmel Dalley, a Blackfoot area rancher who serves on IFBF's state MAC committee.
"It's insane," she said of the demand. "We've had to turn some requests down."
IFBF regional field manager Kendall Keller, who helped develop the program, said the trailers have been booked all the way through the end of the school year.
"It's been extremely popular," he said. "Wherever we go, they always want us back."
The program is geared toward children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
"It allows us to teach kids in a hands-on way about where their food comes from," Dalley said.
Real producers volunteer to demonstrate the items, "so you have farmers in the classrooms teaching kids about agriculture," said IFBF spokesman John Thompson.
The milking cows, "Molly" and "Maggie," have recirculating pumps filled with water that allows kids to milk them continuously and the water module includes dams and a fish ladder and enables farmers to show children how important dams are to the food they eat.
The hardest part about bringing the items to the classroom is leaving, Dalley said.
"They don't want us to leave," she said. "They are very excited and want to do it again. 'Let's keep grinding wheat. Let's milk the cow all day long.'"
With the exception of the water module, which is expensive and delicate, the modules are hands-on.
"The reason it works so good is that it's hands-on," Keller said. "When the kids do something hands-on, they learn and they remember. We don't have to lecture them."
Dalley said IFBF is considering adding other commodity items in the future but wants to perfect the ones they use now.
"Some commodities are just easier to present in a simplified, hands-on way," she said. "But we're still promoting agriculture as a whole. We're not singling out any commodity as better than any other one."
In the works now is a "day in the life" module that will include a tote bag filled with items such as a football and toothpaste that will allow producers to demonstrate how normal, everyday items that are produced from agricultural byproducts.