Area students learn about agriculture through FARMtastic

Henderson Ward Stewart third grader Paytton Anderson blows bubbles through porous wood in an activity at FARMtastic Wednesday. More than 1,500 students from seven counties will pass through the exhibit by the end of the week. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Oktibbeha County extension agent Thomas Legiandenyi shows third graders from Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School how to tell the age of a tree at the FARMtastic exhibit Wednesday. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

Elementary school students across the Golden Triangle had the opportunity to learn about Mississippi’s number one industry this week through the FARMtastic exhibit.

The exhibit is put on by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and aims to teach students in second, third and fourth grade about agriculture through hands-on demonstrations. Among the activities students participated in were blowing bubbles through porous wood, digging through soybeans to uncover soybean products and visiting with livestock. Students also learned about horticulture and aquaculture, and received a safety demonstration from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The exhibit will remain at the Mississippi Horse Park until Sept. 28, and will welcome more than 1,500 students from seven counties. The exhibit will then travel around the state, with a two-week stop planned at the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson.

“This is actually our eighth year here in Starkville doing it,” said MSU Extension associate Julie White. “We basically take second to fourth graders through all aspects of Mississippi agriculture from the barnyard to the row crops to horticulture to the fisheries.”

White said the exhibit takes the students from farm to table, showing them where their food and clothing originate. She said the exhibit was operated by 30 to 40 volunteers, and was supported by various entities including MDOT and the Oktibbeha County Soil and Water Conservation District. Several other MSU Extension staff also volunteer with FARMtastic.

“The kids need to know that their food and clothes that they use every single day come from a farm, and that there are farmers working 365 days to make sure that you and I have the things that we need,” White said.

Oak Hill Academy third grade teacher Rebecca Rustin said the exhibit tied nicely into a plants unit her class was working She said her class particularly enjoyed being able to se the livestock at the beginning of the exhibit.

“Anytime they can learn about things native to Mississippi, I think that’s great,” Rustin said.

Rustin said her students were able to answer questions at some of the stations based on things they learned in their plants unit.

“It just kind of helped them to plug in some of that knowledge that they’ve been learning at school here at FARMtastic,” Rustin said.

Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary third grade teacher Amanda Smarge said it was good for her students to get a break from their normal curriculum at FARMtastic.

“I’ve noticed that they get to run around, but they’re still paying attention, and if someone asks a question, they’re still answering it correctly and learning a lot,” Smarge said. “I think it will help them, because we’re learning about habitats right now.”

Smarge said her students had also enjoyed seeing the barnyard area and meeting all the livestock.

“It’s so hands-on, the fact that they’re learning so much about the environment and things around them, which I don’t really think they get in the normal math and reading curriculum,” Smarge said. “I really like it.”