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AgVenture provides hands-on experiences for fourth graders

Fourth-grader Breezy Zawoysky gingerly dipped a detergent-covered Q-tip into a plate of milk. The milk, dotted with food coloring for effect, reacted with the detergent and moved the milk fat around the plate in a kaleidoscope of color.

"We're learning how much fat is in different kinds of milk," Breezy said, while working with Becky Ridgeway, a 4-H educator for UME-Carroll County, at the "Moo Who?" station.

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Breezy was among the 70 Taneytown Elementary School students who participated Monday in AgVenture, a program sponsored by the University of Maryland Extension, Carroll County. The program, which runs throughout the week, is expected to draw about 500 students from Ebb Valley, Freedom, Mount Airy and Cranberry Station elementary schools.

Fourth-grader Baely Gisiner was excited to learn about the different kinds of cattle in Carroll County.

"We're learning how different colors mean different breeds," Baely said.

Throughout the day, students rotated through five stations that connected science, technology, engineering and mathematics — commonly called STEM education — with agricultural sciences.

"It's really teaching kids how important agriculture is in their everyday life," Ridgeway said. "We're trying to give them general exposure to where their food comes from."

Kim Dixon, Carroll County's 4-H youth development agent, and Dale Johnson, a farm management specialist, talked to the students about layer and broiler chickens.

"I learned that there are different kinds of chickens and they lay different kinds of eggs," said fourth-grader Maleia Dennis.

Extension agent Bryan Butler presented "Soil Isn't Just Dirt" with Ann Dicke, extension assistant for 4-H youth development, and Janie Dell, nutrient management adviser. The students planted zucchini seeds in individual pots to take home and sampled the vegetable on-site to know what to expect.

"There's a lot of prep that goes into this," Butler said. "The students really like the hands-on component. We take the zucchini all the way through its life cycle. We plant it with them and talk about how it grows, and they take it home so they can eat it."

Stephen Allgeier, the extension's master gardener coordinator, discussed run-off and how to keep watersheds clean with the students.

"This trip really complements our science curriculum. They are studying water quality and watersheds," said Barbara Peterson, a fourth-grade teacher at Taneytown Elementary. "They are doing a nice job of giving the students an opportunity to ask questions and encouraging them to think independently."

Family and consumer sciences agent Terry Serio helped the students create a healthy snack while discussing which proteins, vitamins and minerals are in grains like wheat.

Lisa Poole, a fourth-grade teacher at Taneytown Elementary, said the students were lucky to have a hands-on experience like AgVenture so close to their schools.

"There's a link with ag for a lot of kids in Carroll County," Poole said. "This is a great way for them to see what goes on in their community."

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