‘Virtual tour’ brings farm life to Las Vegas kindergartners
—by Gretchen Voga, Agriculture in the Classroom Program Director, Polk County Farm Bureau
On Thursday, May 26 Polk County Ag in the Classroom brought a cattle and crop farm and free range chickens across the U.S.A.; all the way from central Iowa to three kindergarten classrooms in Las Vegas. Kindergarteners from the inner city, most having never stepped foot outside of the city, were able to finally virtually tour two working farms! Fortunately, thanks to Laura Anderson Loots and Nicole Jonas and their families, we were able to give the students an opportunity to not only see a working farm, but interact with the farmer, actively asking questions and attentively listening over a twenty-minute skype tour.
The kindergarteners were very excited when we called them via skype. They were very respectful and were great listeners right away! At the Loots farm, the students were greeted to “moos” from the cows and the lush, green colors of the lawn and fields. Squeals of delight were heard throughout the tour. When Laura told them an acre is about the size of a football field minus the end zones, and the fields around her house were at least 25 acres, reactions of, “That is HUGE!” and, “Wow, twenty five football fields!” could be heard throughout the classroom. After getting an up-close look at the cows, the kids “moved” down the road to Nicole Jonas’ Red Granite Farm.
Nicole began with a tour of the brooder house, explaining to the students that these chickens do not lay eggs yet because they are not old enough. The students enjoyed learning how and when they received the birds, what they ate, where they ate and drank, what they drank, where the birds got their exercise, and - the students favorite part - where the birds roosted! When the students learned they picked up the chicks from the post office when they were one day old, they were astonished. They thought it was very interesting to pick up birds from a post office. The students were also intrigued to see their spacious living quarters with fresh, clean bedding on the floor. Students thought it was pretty neat to see that they could eat and drink whenever they wanted. They also got to see the chicken feed made of soybeans, corn, vitamins, and minerals, up close and personal. The students favorite part, however, was when Nicole told them about their roosting patterns, and how it is natural for a bird to want to roost. The classroom exploded with excitement when they were able to see a chicken walk up the ramp and sit on the roost. Students thought it was absolutely adorable! The next part of the students’ virtual tour was the laying house.
Inside the laying house students saw the feed, water, roost, how the eggs were collected, and where the chickens laid their eggs. After viewing the egg collection process, students were extremely curious to see what the inside of the nesting boxes looked like, and they asked to see the inside. The great part about an interactive tour, is when they are curious, students can ask questions which allow them to feel engaged and learn what they are curious about. We showed them the inside of the nesting box and the students thought it was pretty cool that the chickens had their own room to lay their egg in! Students were also very impressed when they learned that the chickens can go outside through the door whenever they want and enjoy the outdoors. At the end of the “tour” we allowed for students to come up and ask questions to farmer Nicole. They were very well prepared and asked some great questions. You could tell they were very curious. One kindergartener asked, “How long will the chickens lay eggs?” Another asked, “When do they get to eat?” Nicole happily answered these questions, and plus many more! After the curious kindergarteners’ questions were answered, the students thanked Nicole and said good bye!
The farm chat was truly a wonderful experience to be a part of. It was great to see how curious the kindergarteners were and how excited they were to finally see a farm! Bringing the inner city classrooms to a farm for the first time, attested to what Ag in the Classroom is all about - getting students curious about agriculture and increasing agricultural literacy in our country!
We hope to skype with more schools across the nation in the future. If you or someone you know is interested in skyping with a local Iowa farmer, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to set something up!