What better place for kids to learn about agriculture than the Iowa State Fair?
The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) is seizing the opportunity with a line-up of hands-on activities that include books, games, science experiments and cooking contests.
The fun starts Friday, Aug. 9 at the Animal Learning Center with Ag BINGO at 12 p.m. and "The Many Hats of an Iowa Farmer" at 2 p.m. The line-up repeats on Thursday, August 15 with BINGO again at 12 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16.
“Ag BINGO tests people’s knowledge of ag facts,” says IALF Education Program Manager Cindy Hall. Questions cover topics like the difference between hay and straw, or field and sweet corn, as well as ag statistics. “Kids think its fun to show they know more than Mom and Dad.”
And there are prizes. Winners get a $6 meal coupon good at any of the ag producer group food stands, enough to get a turkey leg or pork chop on a stick.
"The Many Hats of an Iowa Farmer" gets kids involved and shows the diversity of the farmers’ job description. Each kid is given a costume representing one of the many roles farmers play. Truck driver, computer technician, business manager, mechanic and so on. As each child dons the costume, an explanation is given, then they join the line-up on stage for the final photo opp.
“The kids love it,” says Hall. “As an avid life-long fair-goer, I can tell you it is every kid’s (and mother’s) dream to make it on stage. I run into kids all year long asking if I will call on them next year.”
Both activities have a solid following of regular fair-going families and campers. “It’s a good way to learn and take home prizes,” says Hall.
Blue Ribbon Kid’s Club is a popular state fair staple, taking place every day at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Fun Forest Stage. IALF will take its turn hosting on Friday, Aug. 16.
The program will feature the book “My Family’s Pig Farm” by Katie Olthoff. There will be a book reading, book giveaways, an appearance by the Pig Farm family, and maybe a photo opportunity with a baby pig from the Animal Learning Center farrowing exhibit.
“We try to keep things interactive and engaging,” says Hall.
Kids will definitely have a hands-on experience when IALF takes part in STEM day at the fair, Sunday, Aug. 18.
The annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) event takes place on the Grand Concourse 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features more than 20 entities offering learning experiences for all ages, with a focus on elementary school kids.
This year’s event features plant-based consumer products, and IALF will introduce kids to corn-based packing peanuts.
They will get to handle the peanuts, explore their properties, and watch them dissolve in water. Of course, there will be information to learn, and questions to answer. It’s all in keeping with the hands-on learning approach.
“Kids like that. They are engaged and curious and like things at the fair they don’t just walk by and look at,” says IALF Education Program Coordinator Chrissy Rhodes.
Around 1,000 kids are expected to attend the STEM event.
In past years, kids have had the opportunity to explore soil through the microscope and make seed germination necklaces.
The seed germination necklaces were so popular last year, they will make a repeat performance this year at the Farm Bureau Park on Monday, Aug. 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Water beads and corn and soybeans are placed in a small plastic bag. Then the bag is attached to a string to be worn as a necklace. As the seeds germinate over the next several days, kids get to watch the progress, and share their newfound knowledge with others.
IALF will participate in Iowa’s Big Four Cooking Contest on Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in the Elwell Family Food Building. Sponsored by four Iowa commodity groups, contestants must prepare either a sweet or savory dish using at least two of the four commodity ingredients: corn, soybeans, pork and eggs.
There will also be a cooking demonstration at the Elwell Family Food Building on Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and again Friday, Aug. 16 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible,” says Rhodes. IALF will also have a small display at the Family Food Center. “We hope to see as many different kinds of people in as many different locations and days as we can. We want people of all ages to learn about ag.”
More info on the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation can be found at www.iowaagliteracy.org.