After a two-year-long hiatus, Miner Institute was once again able to host one of its most popular events – Farm Day for 5th Graders. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Farm Days for 5th Graders is a field trip where students from all across Clinton County learn how Miner Institute takes care of its animals, crops and equipment.
Students rotated between eight stations, spending 25 minutes at each station which was led by summer intern presenters. The interns first explained the details of their stations, then they showed the students their station’s interactive features, and finally, they answered any questions the students, teachers, or parent chaperones had. I was an embedded reporter shadowing a group from Mooers Elementary School during this event and the following is what I gathered from the experience.
Nearly half of the stations were dedicated to Miner Institute’s cows. One of the stations featured two calves that were less than a week old. After the interns explained how the calves are fed, tagged and taken care of, students were allowed to pet the calves in groups of two; the small groups prevented the calves from getting scared and allowed each student to have a more personal experience with them. The next station focused on how the cows are milked. Students were shown how cows move to specialized milking machines, how their udders and the machines were sanitized, and where the cows go when they’re done being milked. The cows are milked three times per day after they have their first calf (around the age of one). The last station that focused on cows showed students what fistulated cows were. These cows have a hole in their sides with a removable plug; this allows researchers to analyze the contents of their stomach without hurting the animals. Students were provided with a plastic glove that extended up to their shoulder and were allowed to feel the contents of the cows’ stomachs one by one.
The cows weren’t the only animals the students learned about; two of the eight stations were dedicated to the behavior and care of horses. The first horse station focused on how the interns take care of the horses. The students were shown several different brushes to take care of a horse’s fur, tail and mane, some of the tools used to clean the horses’ hooves and even some of the snacks the horses enjoyed.
At the end of this station, students were allowed to approach the horse and lightly bump its nose, mimicking one of the ways horses communicate with each other. The second horse station focused on horse behavior; students were shown how horses were exercised and trained. The trainer demonstrated
that the tone of her voice, the commands she gave the horse and how she pulled on the reins were all important for getting the horse to move the way she wanted it to.
The three remaining stations taught students about the farm equipment, the animal’s feed and Miner Institute’s history. Starting with the farm equipment, students learned which machines were used to prepare the soil for crops. They were shown each machine in the order they were used in the field; the students were even allowed to get up close and personal with the machines in order to see how they work.
The next station focused on what is fed to Miner Institute’s cows. The students were presented with all of the individual ingredients in the feed and asked to guess what each ingredient was. Once correctly guessed, the interns would explain what the ingredient was and why it was important for the cows to eat. After this, the students were shown where and how the feed was stored.
The final station taught students the history of Miner Institute, including the fact that it was originally called Heart’s Delight Farm and wasn’t renamed until the mid 1950s. Students were shown a model of the original Heart’s Delight Farm and the dam that powered it. After that, students were shown various other features of the original farm, including a birdhouse used to keep the mosquito population at bay and several horse-drawn vehicles used on the farm.
By showing students what they do at an early age, Miner Institute encourages students to learn more about the farms that feed them and support their community. All in all, Farm Days for 5th Graders was an incredibly enjoyable and informative experience for the teachers, the parent chaperones, and especially the students.
-- Elijah Crosbourne
SUNY Plattsburgh intern