TRACY - Freshmen at Tracy Area High School had the opportunity to teach first-graders about agriculture Monday afternoon at Tracy Area Elementary School.
After hearing about the idea from an agriculture teacher in Morris, John Lanoue decided to give it a try with his Ag 9 class.
"I thought it was kind of a neat idea," Lanoue said. "There's a national program called Ag in the Classroom. They put out two publications per year and it's geared towards first grade. That's why we go to the first-grade classrooms."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
First-grader Nicholas Willhite, right, enjoys coloring a pig from a “Food and Fun on the Farm” book alongside freshman Asa Nelson Monday at Tracy Area Elementary School.
With each having approximately 20 students, Lanoue said the collaboration works out really well.
"The best part is seeing the kids interact," he said. "The ag students are kind of over there all macho-like, and then they come over here and just melt."
Freshmen were asked to take what they knew from ag class and create a colorful booklet to share with the elementary students. Freshman Asa Nelson said he thoroughly enjoyed the project.
"You get to learn from what Mr. Lanoue taught us and we get to bring it here and apply it," Nelson said. "It's fun spending time with these guys."
Last week, the ag students taught first-graders in Jodi Illg's classroom. On Monday, the freshmen were welcomed into Suanne Christiansen's classroom.
"Having the cross-grade level interactions is wonderful and the first-graders look forward to it," Christiansen said. "Not only is it fun to learn with an older buddy, but they also hear about agriculture topics. We have fewer and fewer active farm families these days and most of the students don't have a good awareness of how agriculture impacts theirs lives."
With a colorful poster board in his hands, Lanoue talked to the first-graders about the dairy industry.
"Does anyone know where milk comes from?" Lanoue asked the youngsters.
Cows was the unanimous answer given back to him. A number of students could also pick out the top dairy states, which included California, Wisconsin, Idaho, Pennsylvania and New York.
"You guys are good," Lanoue said to the first-graders. "That's where most of our dairy milk comes from."
Lanoue continued on, asking whether the elementary kids knew what could be made from milk. Student replies varied from yogurt to cheese to ice cream or popcorn.
"No, not popcorn," Lanoue said. "But we can make milk into cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt. There are lots of things we can do with milk."
The ag students then paired up with the first-graders, to read to them and teach them about agricultural products.
"We have a little magazine that you're going to get to take home," Lanoue said. "You can work on it with your special helpers here (Monday). It talks a little bit about where our ag products come from. Some you may recognize from your school or at home."
Nelson's partner, Nicholas Willhite, circled items such as shoes and jeans.
"I didn't know all those things were," Willhite said.
The two groups of students also completed a matching worksheet together, such as pairing a pig with ham.
"I had fun," first-grader Madison Clark said. "I like the papers we did. And, I liked the books we read."
Clark also learned something new.
"I didn't know that the milk had to go through machines before," she said.
Clark's partner, freshman Lexi Nordsiden, said she enjoyed teaching the first-graders about agriculture.
"I thought it was fun," Nordsiden said. "I learned a lot. I've been in ag since seventh grade. I like learning about all the animals that I didn't know about and the crops in our area."
First-grader Jonathon Erbes enjoyed coloring from the "Food and Fun on the Farm" book that students also received.
"I'm coloring a cow," Erbes said.
Erbes knew two things that came from cows.
"Meat and milk," he said.
When asked if he liked cows, Erbes said "Uh-uh. I like the cow meat."
Freshman Riley Steffes and first-grader Danica Vee had some back and forth conversations.
"It was fun to meet the little kids," Steffes said.
While the interaction appeared positive for both groups of students, Nelson said there was one downside to being in the first-grade classroom.
"It makes you realize you wish you could be in first grade again," Nelson said.
As the ag students were preparing to depart, Lanoue had one final surprise for the first-graders. Appropriately, the special treat was string cheese for each of them to enjoy. It wasn't quite as good as ice cream, one student said, but it was close.