Students from College Station and A&M Consolidated high schools’ FFA programs and Brazos County 4-H members turned into teachers Thursday morning during the second annual Ag-YOU-Cate event at the Brazos County Youth Livestock Show.
A&M Consolidated High School ag teacher Hannah Lewandowski said the purpose was to expose elementary students to agriculture. During the event at the Brazos County Expo, the younger students went to 11 different stations that dealt with goats, lambs, pigs, rabbits, cattle, horticulture, arts and crafts, exercise, food, poultry and, more specifically, chickens and eggs. The ag mechanics students also had their projects on display.
“They loved it. They got to take home a bunch of brochures and information about agriculture, and they did a bunch of hands-on activities,” Brazos County 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent Avery Martin said.
Bonham Elementary kindergarten teacher Whitlee Avara said she enjoyed seeing the students interact with the animals.
“I think it was really cool because, for me, we have cattle and we have horses and we have chickens, so I’m always talking to my students about that, so it’s cool for them actually to see that in person,” she said. “They were just so amused by it. It was just the neatest thing for them to pet them.”
As kids’ understanding of agriculture lessens, Martin said, it is their job as 4-H and FFA members to advocate for agriculture and its importance in life.
“We’re still kind of a rural city, but you’d be amazed how many students don’t really know nowadays where their food and the products are really coming from,” Lewandowski said.
Martin’s favorite moments, though, are the “awe” moments, especially the students who do not see animals on a daily basis.
“That excitement is very rewarding, knowing that they’re learning about something that, I guess, I would say I take for granted,” Martin said. “It’s my lifestyle, and I’m with it every day, and seeing them freak out about it, it’s really rewarding.”
Brazos County 4-H member Kaitlyn Kotrla called it a privilege to take part in the event.
“I had the honor of leading youth in the area in fun, hands-on activities that advocated for agriculture,” she said. Specifically, Kotrla helped with the horticulture and rabbit booths. “This entertaining, educational experience was so much fun to participate in, and I think the kids really enjoyed coming out and learning about agriculture.”
Summer Halbert, 13, enjoyed getting to take on a leadership role with the event and teaching the younger students and answering their questions.
She said she hoped the experience gave them a better understanding of the world around them and also how to care about animals.
“It’s more than just chicken nuggets, and you have an understanding of where it came from,” said Halbert’s dad, Kyle. “I thought that was one of the more interesting statements that I heard. Some of the children didn’t know where it starts.”
Of the hundreds of younger students who attended the event, the largest group were kindergarten and first-grade students from Bonham Elementary School in Bryan.
First-grader Addison Sage said she had fun at the event and liked transplanting her yellow and orange flower, learning how wool is made into products, seeing the different types of eggs and learning ice cream is considered dairy at the MyPlate booth.
She also had a chance to milk a fake cow, though the “milk” at the booth was water.
When her group was at the chicken and egg station, she said, she learned that not all eggs are the ones people eat.
“Some of the eggs were regular eggs, and some of the eggs were the ones that had chicks in it,” Sage said.
With a candle, some of the students got the chance to see the chick inside the egg, and some groups even saw an egg that had just been laid.
“One of the things that we’re learning with the Essential Eight is all these different things of work ethic and giving back and all those different things, so they were exhibiting them right then and right there,” Ruth Vincent, a first-grade teacher at Bonham Elementary, said. “They really showed what leadership and service and all of those different things is about.”
Avara said she hopes the experience sparks an interest in some of the students and shows them there is more they can do than play on their phone or watch TV.
“They can get out and be around animals and learn about agriculture and get involved in that, especially when they get into high school. That’s something they can do,” she said.