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Children Explore Agricultural Science on Wheels

Young chemists in action.

Young chemists in action.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Ahhh!  Remember the days of taking classroom field trips?  Bet you never had one like this—a virtual visit by a classroom on wheels that drives right up to the school’s front door!

Such was the recent treat for K-5 students at Beltsville Academy in Beltsville, Md., just down the road from the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). Nationwide, BARC is the largest location of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Over the past several years, BARC and Friends of Agricultural Research-Beltsville (FAR-B)—a  nonprofit organization that supports BARC research and programs—have coordinated  numerous  science enrichment programs at Beltsville Academy to help kids learn more about agricultural science.  This fall, BARC and FAR-B teamed up with the school to sponsor a visit from the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s “Agricultural Products” mobile science lab.

Inside the mobile lab, retired science teachers skilled in making science “come alive” promote the importance of agriculture in our daily lives, and conduct experiments featured on the lab’s kid-sized workbenches.

Younger students heard a story about cows, talked about dairy foods, made butter from heavy cream, and then taste tested their experiment on graham crackers.

Older students played “chemist,” producing glue from milk and then testing its strength against a commercial variety using several objective tests.  Problem, hypothesis, procedure, results, conclusion—the scientific method in action!

One third-grader was overheard saying, “I’m going to save my glue so we don’t have to buy it anymore.”

The school’s principal, Rashida Edwards, praised the program, saying, “This was a great experience for the kids.  It reinforced the importance of agriculture in our daily lives, showed how science can be fun, and you just never know what might motivate kids—maybe we’ve even inspired some future scientists!”

Want to learn more about cool science experiments?  Check out us out here.

Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s classroom on wheels—the “Agricultural Products” Mobile Science Laboratory.

Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s classroom on wheels—the “Agricultural Products” Mobile Science Laboratory.

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