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Students get hands-on at Miner Farm

Lizzie Hynes, a fifth-grade student at Cumberland Head Elementary School, had a chance to experience the digestion process of a dairy cow first hand at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute’s annual Farm Days for Fifth Graders event.

Lizzie Hynes, a fifth-grade student at Cumberland Head Elementary School, had a chance to experience the digestion process of a dairy cow first hand at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute’s annual Farm Days for Fifth Graders event. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

The fifth-grade students, who were from Beekmantown, Chazy, Cumberland Head, Momot, Mooers, Morrisonville, Northern Adirondack, Rouses Point and Saranac Lake elementary schools, were divvied into eight groups and spent about 30 minutes at each exhibit.

The exhibits—horse behavior, field equipment, heritage exhibit, horse care, calves, feeds, dairy barn and Lavender, the fistulated cow—were all located on the Miner Farm property.

“The field trip experience should be more than a day off,” Emerich said. “We try to encourage our students that are giving the tour to challenge them with some math questions or some science questions.”

Some of the stops along the tour, like the heritage and field care exhibits, gave lessons in history, while others, like the fistulated cow, gave the students an opportunity to get a little closer.

“We try to keep the exhibits as hands-on as possible, and that one’s not just hands-on, it’s hands-in,” Emerich said.

Fifth-grade students took turns inserting their arms into Lavender, a dairy cow with a fistula—an artificial entryway that grants access to one of the bovine’s four stomachs.

Russell Miller, a veterinary science major at Purdue University in Indiana, explained the digestion process to the awe-struck fifth graders, who displayed a range of emotions as they took turns being elbow-deep in Lavender’s stomach, which went about its business as usual.

Miller also explained that Lavender, who munched on feed and seemed genuinely oblivious to the happenings around her, was fistulated in the name science.

“Lavender allows us to better understand forages and how they interact with the animal,” Miller said. “By doing that we can find out what the best feed to give livestock is, and determine what’s best for them.”

Some of the exhibits at Farm Days for Fifth Graders were not as bovine invasive.

Deanna Shenk, who is studying dairy science and animal and poultry science at Virginia Tech University, taught attendees about the feeding, housing and identification system of calves.

As the fifth-grade students took turns petting a dairy calf, she expressed a need for consumers to better understand the process of agriculture.

“It’s great being out here, teaching agriculture to kids,” Shenk said. “It definitely helps me know what people don’t understand and what people want to know about agriculture.”

The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute will be hosting a free, open-to-the-public open house Saturday, Aug. 10 from noon–4 p.m.

For more information, visit www.whminer.com

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