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Youth gardening days draw large crowd
CRYSTAL SPRINGS -- More than 900 students from central Mississippi recently took part in a two-day festival aimed at increasing their knowledge about agriculture and how it fits into a healthy lifestyle.
Twelve schools brought 940 students to the Youth Fall Flower and Garden Fest on Oct. 9 and 10 at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs.
“The event is geared toward broadening these students’ horizons,” said Melissa Morgan, event coordinator and Copiah County 4-H agent with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “We want them to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of agriculture. Topics such as horticulture and healthy lifestyles are tied in with agriculture, so we incorporate those topics into the days’ activities.”
The event began in the early 1990s and has remained popular.
“The fest provides a great, hands-on learning opportunity that students do not usually get to experience in a school setting,” Morgan said. “The kids always have a wonderful time.”
Many of the students who attend do have some understanding of agriculture and its role in food production, Hinds County 4-H Agent Lurlinda Soignier said.
“Most of these kids have gardens at home, but there are a few who don’t know where their food comes from. So this event helps all of them understand the bigger picture,” said Soignier, who worked at the fest. “It helps them see the complete cycle of their food, beginning with the soil.”
Students spent time at four learning stations, including Sam E. Soil, Pizza Garden, Build-A-Burger and Movin’ and Groovin’ with Nutrition. At the Sam E. Soil station, students learned the role soil plays in providing food to plants and animals. The origins of each ingredient in a hamburger and pizza were explained at the Build-A-Burger and Pizza Garden stations. Movin’ and Groovin’ with Nutrition taught students the importance of exercise and food choices.
Students toured the display gardens, muscadine orchard and fresh-water shrimp pond. They also participated in a forestry-themed obstacle course, which included a zipline, balance beam, swinging rope and forestry maze. Each class received a book about Mississippi’s trees.
Hazlehurst Elementary School fourth graders took notes throughout the gardens to use back in the classroom.
Kathryn Ling, Hazlehurst Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, said she hopes to use the information her students gathered during the field trip in subjects beyond science back in the classroom.
“One classroom exercise will be to infer why the plants we have noted might have certain names. We are also getting ideas for plants we might like to grow in our school garden in the spring,” Ling said.
Morgan said each year she works with local schools and other Extension agents in the southwest district to help make the event a success each year.
“I try to go into the local classrooms to get a feel for what the students are studying,” she said. “By doing that, I can change or add to the educational stops to focus on new or important topics. This event would not be as successful without the dedicated team of Extension agents who strive to make this a beneficial event for the kids.”