COLUMBIA, S.C. – This schoolroom has golden squared hay bales for seats, tin roofs sitting atop wooden structures and, in a nearby field, dried brown corn stalks softly crackling as a gentle breeze blows.
It’s the perfect place for students from Bethel-Hanberry Elementary School in Blythewood to learn where food comes from. The students were just a few of about 1,000 students who participated in School Days at the Clemson Sandhill Research and Education Center this year. Brandy Hagood, a first grade teacher at Bethel-Hanberry, said information students are given during the School Days event supports what they are taught in the classroom.
“In our science class, we learned about how plants come from seeds,” Hagood said. “And here, they are able to see seeds and the plants that come from the seeds. They learn about how the seeds are planted to give us fruits and vegetables to eat. This (event) gives them hands-on experience with farming and teaches them where agricultural products come from.”
The program features South Carolina crops and their history, lessons on the life cycle of plants, the impact of stewardship and use of water, a giant maze and a tractor-pulled hayride. This interactive, hands-on experience is held in conjunction with Clemson Extension’s 4-H Program. Lessons on plant life, water conservation and more are led by the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service’s Richland County Master Gardeners.
One Master Gardener, Cathy Beattie, led a lesson on plant life. Pollination and how it relates to the life cycle of a pumpkin was one topic discussed. Beattie also talked about cotton. Another Master Gardener, Harriette Edmonds, talked with the students about water.
In addition to lessons about plants and water, the students also were given a tour of the Research and Education Center while taking a tractor-pulled hayride. Cody Bishop, Sandhill REC farm manager, was tractor driver and tour narrator. The students, parents and teachers learned about peach research formerly conducted at the Center, as well as the Incubator Farm and Greenhouse, history of buildings on the grounds and a study being done to learn how to deter costly soybean damage caused by deer. This study is led by Corey Heaton, Extension state wildlife specialist.
“Deer love soybeans and cause thousands of dollars in damage to the South Carolina soybean crop each year,” Bishop said. “Numerous repellents are on the market to reduce deer damage to plants. We are trying to determine which repellents are most effective and develop application timing and frequency guidelines to help farmers protect their crops.”
Stan Perry, director of special projects, said School Days is an annual event designed to teach students about agriculture.
“This event started in 2011,” Perry said. “Since that time, we’ve been holding this event every year to teach students about how important agriculture is to our world. Information the students learn during School Days is related to what they are being taught in their classrooms. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity and register their classes for this event.”
School Days is held on weekdays, with the exception of Tuesdays, in October. This activity is designed for kindergarten through second grade students with flexibility to adapt for pre-K and third grade students. Sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. and are over by lunch. Schools have the option to bring their lunch and eat it at the Center.
For more information about Clemson Sandhill School Days, go to: https://www.clemson.edu/public/sandhill/programs/school_days.html. Or, contact Stan Perry at email@example.com.
— Denise Attaway, Public Service and Agriculture, Clemson University
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