Science of Agriculture

Today we took a field trip to the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, OH. This is an extension of Ohio State University and twice a year they hold an open house/science day for school kids. The spring program is called “A Bug’s World” and focuses more on insects, while the fall program, “Science of Agriculture”, is a little broader in scope. We have attended Bug’s World twice, but last year the SoA program was cancelled due to a tornado that tore through campus, doing some pretty extensive damage. So this was our first time for the fall trip.

Our day started with a session called All About Bulbs. We learned about some of the types of plants that grew from bulbs, what the parts of a bulb are, what bulbs do during different times of the year, and then got to cut open a bulb to see the inside.

The kids were given a blank sheet of paper and had to make their own “bulb brochure”. The instructor had booklets from one of the previous years set out as examples. First they measured and described the bulb, then they drew pictures of what it looked like on the outside and on the inside.

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Here is half of a bulb which was sliced open so we could see the inside.

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We listened to an explanation about how bulbs work and the parts of a bulb.

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Then we were ready to start measuring and describing our own bulb.

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S7 volunteered to draw pictures of what bulbs in our part of the world are doing at different times of the year.

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O5 did a pretty good rendering of a bulb herself.

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We learned we could measure circumference by using a piece of string.

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Our second session was called “Exploring Ecosystems”.  We headed over to the Secrest Arboretum to look at an ecosystem at work.

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The kids were asked to observe closely, to see if they could find any examples of organisms that depended on other organisms. There were lots of spider webs and chewed leaves to be found!

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In fact, we had so much fun exploring this ecosystem that we skipped our next session entirely and wandered around the arboretum instead!

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This is a fabulous garden. There are so many little nooks and terraces for small people to explore (and get lost in…!)

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Next we headed to “Sensational Soil”, where a representative from the local Soil and Water Conservation District talked about the importance of soil and why we might need to conserve it.

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We learned how soil was made: either through decomposition of organic material, or by the weathering of rock. We also learned that it takes Nature about 500 years to make one inch of soil!

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There were several hands-on activities for the kids to try. S7 liked making her own soil out of rocks. Here she is rubbing two pieces of sandstone together to make some soil in a cup.

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She liked this activity a lot. We might put her to work in the back yard to make some soil for our garden!

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There were also some puzzles and a “Worm” search… hahaha…

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(O5 thought the worm search was pretty funny…)

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We also had a chance to make a Soil Sam to take home.

Soil Sam

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Finally, it was lunchtime. Since it had turned out to be a beautiful day, we went back to the arboretum and ate down in the ampitheatre.

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After lunch, we headed back to the Molecular and Cellular Imaging lab to see the microscopes in “Larger than Life”. The kids got to use a real scanning electron microscope to check out a tiny baby shrimp.

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They could pan and zoom as they liked. Very cool!

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S7 wanted to take notes about her observations.

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Unfortunately, they will probably never eat shrimp now after having seen it this close and personal.

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We also got to check out a demo slide on a powerful light microscope.

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We went over to another room in the imaging lab to see pond water under a microscope.

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Here, the technician is hunting for some critters for us to observe.

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We had a chance to see them for ourselves, too.

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S7 is asking what the critters eat.

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Our sixth session was the Greenhouse Lab.

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Here, we saw how plants could be grown in a greenhouse when the weather was too cold or otherwise uncooperative for them to be grown out in the garden.

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Then we made mini greenhouses, and planted a tiny pansy in each one.

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Here is a flat of baby pansy starts:

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They were tricky to pop out of the flat.

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Each of the kids planted a start in their greenhouse, then tamped the soil gently around it.

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Then we added a clear cup for the lid.

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Voila! Mini Greenhouses.

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We also learned about what plants need to grow, and how to provide those things in a greenhouse setting.

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Our last session was sponsored by the local county Joint Solid Waste Management district and was about recycling.

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The kids got to see some actual raw material samples, including bauxite (aluminum), iron ore (steel), quartz (glass) and galena (lead). They were not allowed to touch the galena sample, fortunately.

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Then we played a game called “Stuck on Recycling”. Our friend S volunteered to help with this one. The kids got a piece of trash and had to determine whether it could be recycled or not.

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The things that were recyclable were “stuck” onto our friend’s Velcro shirt.

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He was a very good sport about it.

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