Kids have fun at farm

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, November 17, 2016

A research farm on Hare Road seemed to be growing children on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a way, it was. All of the city’s second-graders visited the Virginia Tech Extension farm to learn about a variety of farm-related topics.

“Some of the kids have never experienced a farm or things on a farm,” said Stacey Grooms, a teacher at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, who visited the farm with her class on Thursday. “They tie in a lot of the second-grade [Standards of Learning] at this event, so it’s a great learning experience.”

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The children learned about soil, crops, animals, insects and more, with hands-on activities at almost every station.

After learning about various types of native and invasive insects, and how they help or hurt farmers, students were offered the chance to touch a Madagascar hissing cockroach, which — thankfully — are neither native nor invasive to Virginia but are simply kept as pets.

Students learned about the various layers of soil and how they help crops grow, and then they got to make a cup of “edible soil” with crushed vanilla wafers, chocolate pudding, crushed chocolate cookies, peanuts, gummy worms and sprinkles representing the layers of soil and their inhabitants.

They heard about how cotton is grown and all of the different things — especially clothes — that can be made from it.

The kids learned about common crops in Suffolk — corn, wheat, soybeans and peanuts — and then created art projects by layering them into jars, which they got to take home.

Gene Crabtree, who works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, explained how different foods kids love — cereal, Pop-Tarts and macaroni and cheese — are made with the various crops.

“I think it’s important for the kids,” Crabtree said. “It’s real important for them to have this hands-on experience.”

Students also took home a soybean seed encased in plastic with a wet cotton ball and learned that they should keep it warm and dark in order for it to germinate.

The students also got to talk to a livestock veterinarian, learn about runoff and pollution, pet farm animals and more.

“The kids really enjoy it,” said Julie Moyer, science instructional specialist for Suffolk Public Schools. “They can experience it firsthand, instead of just sitting in the classroom.”

She said the trip is offered for second-graders, because the activities correlate best with the Standards of Learning for that grade level.

Students said they learned a lot at the farm day.

“A lot of food is made that comes from the farm,” said Brooklyn Sharp, an Elephant’s Fork Elementary School student. “They grow the crops on the farm, and they put it in stores to sell it.”

Classmate Isha Patel said she learned that 1/32 of the earth is farmed. And Promyce Smith and Toriona Lang said they enjoyed learning about mosquitoes.

“I learned that mosquitoes lay their eggs in water,” Promyce said.
The trip was funded by the Suffolk Education Foundation and Birdsong Peanuts.