Students of the School District of Cambridge were treated to a special day on May 18 at the Severson Learning Center, which sponsored a “Farm/Garden Day” with an accompanying theme of “Babies,” be it a sapling tree or infant animal.
With eight learning stations set up and manned by staff and FFA volunteers from both the high school and Nikolay Middle School, elementary students from CES as well as home-schoolers came and were taught the life-cycles of flora and fauna.
Coordinated by Emily Klingbeil, agriculture edu-cation teacher and Severson Learning Center director, this annual event was conducted by Karen Stenjem, district finan-cial/data specialist, who in the past has run the poultry station.
The eight learning stations were packed as classes were led from one focal point to another to touch all bases.
The specific locations included Stations: 1 - Poultry; 2 - Farm Yard; 3 - Bees; 4 - Calves; 5 – Garden; 6 – Chef; 7 – Pond; and 8 – Trees.
Each station presented how the young develop.
At the Poultry Station the objective was “How does a chicken grow/hatch out of an egg?” and for the Calves Station children were taught how a farmer cares for a calf when it is born.
Every attending class had the privilege of planting a tree of its own near the pond on the 80-acre agricultural site. Staff members Gabbie Kester, Amber Topel and Tayler Hinchley had arranged water buckets, shovels, stakes and fencing for students to use, even providing a tree diagram and pre-digging the holes for student planting.
At the Tree Station participating students were taught that a baby tree is called a sapling and asked and answered the question, “What does a tree need to grow?”
Stenjem said that at the Pond Station the spotlight was on frogs, some which were caught for demonstration.
“Out of thousands of eggs, only some make it to full maturity. Kids were instructed how that happens, and then told that frogs take two months to mature once born. We wanted to bring the lesson home and asked students, ‘How would you like to mature in two months?’ There were a lot of different responses, but it got kids to think and appreciate the life-cycle of an amphibian such as a frog.”
Over 200 students were in attendance, including those who are home-schooled and were invited to attend.
As a learning center and the agricultural arm of the Cambridge School District, there was a good deal of educating that took place, as kids were given a glimpse of the cycles of living beings, both botanical and zoological.
About 25 FFA members were on hand to spark learning, with some who did not belong to the FFA but who had a special interest and expertise in a field, as one of the beekeepers had.
Besides the high school FFA staff, seven FFA members from Nikolay Middle School came to help out in the afternoon. Teachers and other school staff supervised.
When asked what her favorite station had been, one first-grader from Mrs. Jeffery’s class fired-back, “The bunnies!” A number of other students chimed in and agreed. One student confessed the horse had been his favorite stop, as he and his classmates were allowed to gently brush a pony.
Most of the animals received a good deal of hands-on attention, and they seemed to enjoy the affectionate caregiving the youngsters were offering.
Notable exceptions to physical attention were the chickens and swine, both under local quarantines due to outbreaks of disease that have been discovered at certain institutionalized farms in the area.
One of many highlights was the Chef Station, where local Chef Gene Gowen of Canella Culinary instructed students in the art of preparing and cooking their own meals. He remarked, “The nice thing about making your own meals is that you get to eat what you want and make it the way you want it.”
Students reacted with un-derstanding, perhaps some of them newly motivated to help out in the kitchen after his demonstrations and guidance.
In high spirits, Stenjem said, “The day’s running extremely smooth. It’s been just wonderful.” She confided, “We chose this day because it’s the best time in the planting cycle to put veggies in the garden and trees in the field. This is the first time I’ve had to lead this event, which I think has been going on for over five years, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather or a better group of students or, for that matter, a better group of FFA members to staff the event. They are all so dedicated. Everything’s gone perfectly.”