Nature came alive Thursday for some Hays USD 489 students at Kids Ag Day at the Harold Kraus farm southwest of Antonino.
Approximately 212 fourth-grade students from O’Loughlin, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson elementary schools learned about agriculture.
“The kids get to see nature hands-on. They’re experiencing it, not just sitting in their desks learning about it,” Wilson teacher Laurenda Werth said.
Students got an up-close look at computerized equipment at the farm implement display.
“The three things the farmer uses every day is math, reading and computers,” said Jason Schneider, Radke Implement.
Farmers produce a crop, “so you can eat and have clothes,” he said. “When you’re eating that pizza today (at lunch), remember how many farmers it took. One farmer can feed about 157 people, but it takes a lot of farmers to produce everything that’s on that pizza.”
One group of nature walkers got a surprise when they spotted a fawn on a nearby hill, which brought “oohs” and “ahs.”
“When you’re out in nature, leave your phones in your vehicle or with your parents,” walk leader Lance Russell said when one child wished for a cellphone.
“It’s all up here,” he said, pointing to his head. “You will never forget that.”
The students get a break from the classroom and are “learning some of the things we talk about in school,” said Tara Wildeman, Wilson teacher.
Russell also pointed out a cottonwood tree felled by beaver.
“If you look, you can see all the different teeth marks,” he said.
In addition to the nature walk and farm implements, the students learned about soil, sunflowers, water and pollution.
“Basically everything you eat comes from soil,” said Ryan Still, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hays.
A dozen hands went up when Still asked what the state tree was, but no one knew the state soil — Harney silt loam.
A group of FFA members from Hays High School led the lesson on sunflowers, a favorite of Melanie Custer, a Roosevelt fourth-grader.
“I just like collecting flowers,” she said.
During the presentation the youngsters identified the flower’s head, seeds, leaves, stem and roots.
“I think it’s great because some of the kids don’t have a lot to do with farms or agriculture, so I think it’s good,” said Greg Horlick, a Lincoln parent. “They can understand how foods are produced and agriculture works.”
It’s also a learning experience for the FFA students, said Hays High FFA sponsor Curt Vajnar.
“They have to do research and learn about agriculture. They have to comprehend that information and then be able to present it to a different age group, be able to change the information, so they understand it. Those are tremendous skills to have, no matter what career they choose.”
This is the fourth year Hays High senior Jarett Pfannenstiel has participated in Kids Ag Day.
“I’ve done it ever since I was a freshman,” he said.
This year, Pfannenstiel helped Schneider with the farm implement display.
“It’s cool to see their face light up when they see how big the equipment is,” Pfannenstiel said.
The event, sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of Ellis County Farm Bureau Association, was started in 2001.