More than two dozen Kansas 4-H teens are participating in a project called the Ag Innovators Experience this summer, which aims to create awareness of where food comes from and what goes into making it by giving kids an escape room challenge.
Attendees will learn how farmers around the world are using resources and innovative technologies to produce more food in less space while using fewer resources. They learn about seed and animal genetics, biologics, crop protection, digital tools, precision equipment, and agronomic practices.
A total of 27 Kansas 4-H teenagers received special training to work with 1,000 youth from spring through late July, playing various challenging games spanning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Cooperation; Communication; and staff development. They learn about tech and professions as they work to find clues in the games.
Unlock Ag Innovations is based on the popular Escape Room Challenge, where participants are first given a clue or code and must figure it out to advance to the next step of the challenge, said Kelsey Nordyke, Kansas 4-H Ag Sciences Specialist.
One code focused on genetics with both a plant and an animal component. Children can identify which heifers have contracted conjunctivitis or which weeds are glyphosate resistant. The code for the heifer corresponds to her ear tag code – e.g. B. 5317 – and the code for the plant is the same. You put the code on the lock and reveal the next challenge.
Kansas 4-H has been running the program in various locations for about four years, but this is the first year that everything has been held in one location, at the Kansas West Plains District Extension office.
Four of the teenagers who led this challenge shared how excited they were to spread the importance of farming knowledge through these games.
“I was interested in the project because I live on a farm and I enjoy farming. I’m also interested in technology and new things on the farm,” said Ian Dunn of St. John, Kansas.
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He enjoys the activity, which involves bags made of different materials to fit farming innovations into a timeline. Components include genetics, drones, GPS, GIS, and selective breeding.
Another teenager; Eve Rider has helped teach various dominant and recessive genes.
“I think the genetics are interesting,” said Rider, who lives on a farm near Neff City, Kansas. = Her father raises cattle and wheat. She breeds rabbits and goats.
Aleah Eatmon from Garden City lives in the city, although her grandpa raises pigs and cattle, corn, wheat and milo. She also has show cattle and likes show pigs.
“When I teach, it’s great to learn as well. When I started teaching, the kids didn’t know anything about farming. Eighth graders thought meat just went to Dillon’s[grocery store],” Eatmon said.
Another teenager who teaches this farming challenge appreciates the interactive part of the games.
“It’s not an activity where you can just sit back and say nothing. Kids in my group and kids who don’t live on a farm find it interesting and also crazy that there is so much technology,” said Baylee Hutcheson of Garden City, Kan. She lives on a small farm and raises show cattle with her family.
The Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge is a grant-funded program through a partnership with National 4-H and Bayer. Presented by the National 4-H Council and Bayer, the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience challenges youth to use these STEM skills to solve a real-world problem while raising awareness of agricultural innovation and farming careers.
Students in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri had the opportunity to participate in the Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge this spring and summer. The entire activity was developed by counseling teachers at the University of Illinois.
Reporter Amy Hadachek is a two-time Emmy Award-winning meteorologist and storm chaser who has earned her NWA and AMS Broadcast Meteorology Seals of Approval. She and her husband live on a diversified farm in Kansas. Reach her at email@example.com.