University of Maryland Extension

Celebrating National Agriculture Day

It seems that  nowadays there is a “day” for everything: February 21 is National Tortilla Chip Day, July 16 is International Juggling Day, and June 9 is Donald Duck Day. And, of course, there are many others! With all these “days” it’s easy for National Agriculture Day—which was celebrated on March 19 this year—to be overlooked.

Rest assured, though, that Ag Day did not go overlooked in Harford County. With the help of contacts set up by our Farm Bureau, I was able to schedule a visit with each fourth grade class at Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace. My purpose was to bring National Ag Day to those students in the form of a fun and interactive science lesson about soils.

In our hour together, I shared with the students five soil samples that I had taken from different places around my house: pasture, garden, woods, stream, and a fallow area. Those who work the land can probably conjure up an image of what each of these soils might look like. But a ten year old with no experience outside of the dirt of his or her own backyard doesn’t even know there are different types of soil!

When I asked the students to share observations about the first sample I showed them, they said things like, “it looks like normal dirt.” But by the end of the lesson I heard comments like “this soil is more sandy” and “that soil has more organic matter.”

The activity we completed involved adding water to a soil sample, shaking it, and allowing the soil to settle. The soil particles will settle in layers with the sand at the bottom, the silt in the middle, and the clay on the top. The students then could measure each layer and create a pie chart showing the relative percentages of each component in each sample. Some of the students were so enthralled with the activity that they promised to try it with soil from their backyards when they got home!

At the end of the day, I left the school physically exhausted (apparently I am not cut out to be an elementary school teacher!) but entirely fulfilled. I know that others in the county also visited schools, and some may have celebrated Ag Day in other ways. I hope those folks found Ag Day to be just as satisfying as I did!

You might think it’s hokey for agriculture to have a “day.” And maybe it is. But it’s a reason for the rest of the country to take notice of what we’re doing in agriculture, which allows us the opportunity to share our stories with an audience who is listening.

Now that Ag Day 2013 has just passed, there’s plenty of time to plan for Ag Day 2014. Ag Day efforts on the national level are coordinated by the Agriculture Council of America; for those interested in organizing activities on the local level, ACA provides a myriad of resources  on their website. Check out www.agday.org for event ideas, planning tips, promotional materials, media kit, and a variety of teaching resources.

 

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