It was all things agriculture for middle school students in Corry last week.
Thanks to a partnership with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its local branches, students at Corry Area Middle School recently had the chance to experience a week-long series of lessons in agriculture by utilizing a mobile laboratory and classroom.
Complete with instructor, the mobile lab was parked in the middle-high school parking lot from March 28 to April 1. It was specifically for use by sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, explained Diane White, a sixth-grade science teacher who coordinated efforts to bring the lab to Corry for the first time.
Teaching and overseeing experiments in the mobile lab was Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Cathy Vorisek, who specifically serves on the board for Crawford County’s branch.
According to her, there are six such trailers, each serving a different region of Pennsylvania.
The interactive sessions, k explained, were 50 minutes long and focused on aspects of the scientific method, including steps like hypothesizing and research.
“It’s all hands on,” Vorisek said. “Everything is related to farming.”
Through experiments and instruction, participating students learned things like how to turn corn starch into plastic and design functional cattle shoots for moving livestock from one place to another. They also explored new vocabulary words like “biodegradable” and “renewable.”
In Vorisek’s opinion, today’s youths are often disassociated and disengaged from farming and agricultural processes, knowing little of their importance to society in things like food prodcution.
“In a big city like Philadelphia, kids don’t know where their food comes from,” Vorisek said.
White noted the program was recommended to her by some local farmers she knows, and she found that students thoroughly enjoyed the activities they did in the lab.
“Since we’re an agricultural community, we thought we’d pursue it,” White said. “It’s just bringing awareness to our students as to where our food does come from, and what we do with our harvest and with our crops.”
White stated the program, which cost roughly $2,500, was funded through donations from the Pennsylvania Soybean Board ($1,000), the Crawford County Farm Bureau ($300) and Erie County Farm Bureau ($1,200).
The district hopes to bring the mobile lab back next year, though the price is increasing slightly to $2,750.
According to White, about $1,420 in donations has already been secured, and plans are tentatively in place for the week of March 27 to 31, 2023.
However, $1,330 in donations is still needed to cover the cost of next year’s program.
Additionally, White said she’s had discussions with CASD Elementary Education Director Dan Daum about the possibility of pursuing an elementary-based program for younger students.
Andy Passinger, assistant principal for the middle-high school, agreed that bringing the mobile classroom in and these farming-related experiments is beneficial for students.
“We are excited that we were able to bring this to Corry for our middle-school students,” Passinger said. “With a strong geography in our area of agriculture, it gave the students some powerful perspectives related to farming and careers associated with those areas. Also, the hands-on lab and its activities promote student engagement, which is always a strong way for them to learn.”