The Kids Growing with Grains program is supported through a grant by the Maryland Grain Producers and administered by faculty from University of Maryland Extension and Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station.
Since 1994, the Kids Growing With Grains program has been held at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville, Maryland (Washington County). Schools with mostly urban population are invited to come to WMREC for a day of learning. For most of the audience, this is their first trip to a farm. Students participating in the all-day field trip visit four different "stations" to learn about grain production, consumption, and nutritional benefits.
At the Planting Station, students take a wagon tour to various research plots and have lessons on planting, growing, and harvesting of grain crops. They learn about the Best Management Practices farmers are encouraged to use in the farming of grains grown for human and animal consumption. The expense associated with growing grains is also a part of this station. Toy replicas of various pieces of machinery and the cost of each are discussed.
Everything from grits to gasoline and corn syrup to crayons is covered at the "Unusual Uses of Grains Station." The students get a hands-on look at some unusual facts, food, and non-food items that are made from corn and corn by-products.
The students have the opportunity to learn from 4-H members at the Animal Consumption Station. The 4-Her's talk to the students about how animals depend upon grains that are produced on a farm. The 4-Her's bring their animals - pigs, cows, calves, goats, sheep, chicken - to display. The students see the amount of grain that is necessary for the animals to grow, produce food, and other products for human consumption.
The nutritional value and health benefits are emphasized at the Human Consumption Station. Hands-on food experiments allow students the opportunity to sample foods made with grains that are healthful but may be new and unique to them. By participating in the preparation of foods made with grains, students gain a better understanding of the varieties and appeal of grains in their diet.
At the end of the day, students return to school with worksheets, recipes, and a "Grain Jar" they have made. The jar contains a sample of oats, wheat, barley, soybeans, and corn. Teachers return with additional teaching materials so the students can continue to learn about grains and reinforce what they have learned throughout the day.
The Kids Growing With Grains program has been adapted and taken directly to schools by Extension faculty to share the message that grains are a part of the a healthy, balanced diet.