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Photos Courtesy of Ballico-Cressey School District

Students get hands-on lessons at annual Ag Day

It’s a longstanding school event that the community has fully embraced. The Ballico-Cressey School District just hosted its eighth annual Ag Day — giving students a chance to learn about farm programs in their area and allow the community to support this learning process.

Started in 2011, the Ag Day will continue for many years in the future, according to committee chairman Sheryl Sauter, a parent and almond grower.

Superintendent Bliss Propes said Ag Day gives Ballico-Cressey students a hands-on opportunity to make real-world connections between the science, technology, engineering and math lessons learned in the classroom and opportunities and jobs in agriculture.

Eighteen growers and vendors, many of them parents of district students, exhibited their wares or brought farm animals. A Holstein heifer frequently mooed its greetings while beef cattle looked on.

Representatives from N&S Tractor, the mobile learning lab of Ag in Motion, Turlock Irrigation District, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Simplot and Blue Diamond manned stations where students took part in the demonstrations.

“Students rotated to stations every 30 minutes to listen to presentations and experience hands-on learning about careers in agriculture, agricultural equipment and technology, and the importance of agriculture in our local community. We bring the community together around agriculture,” Propes said.

Sauter has 120 acres of almonds on her family farm. While Propes concedes many students come from an agricultural background, Sauter points out Ag Day widens their view from what they are exposed to at home.

“There is such diversity in Merced County,” Sauter said. “The kids seem enthusiastic and enjoy it. There are so many things out there. I think they remember some of these presentations.”

In the past, the BNSF Railway has made safety presentations and other organizations also stress safe practices. Students learn about the environment, healthy soils and water usage as well as the many possible careers in ag they can explore.

One year, Sauter’s son planted sweet potato cuttings they received on Ag Day and the family later enjoyed sweet potato dishes at the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Sauter said students learn how to stay away from power lines while farming. Ag detector dogs will sniff out different chemicals and hazardous or illegal chemical substances.

Students also learn to identify several dozen different crops and learn the DNA of strawberry plants. A committee was formed this year to continue preparations for future Ag Day programs.

Isabelle Perry, 14, an eighth-grader, said Ag Day is a lot of fun. She’s been a district student for nine years and wants to become a teacher, hopefully working with special needs children.

“It’s really cool and a great opportunity to learn more about ag. I learned about different kinds of food grown locally,” Perry said.

There was an A-Z salad bar where students got to identify and sample some food items from every letter of the alphabet. A barbecue lunch was held for parents and volunteers at the end of the day.

The district’s second-graders and second grade staff planned Ag Day events. Every grade level has a school event they must organize during the year.

Kindergarteners and staff members organize an annual Easter egg hunt. The first-grade level hosts family reading nights every 13 weeks. Third-graders and staff members organize winter programs at Christmas and other holidays.

Fourth-graders are in charge of the Trunk or Treat event around Halloween and fifth-graders plan an annual barbecue fund-raiser for the annual science camp on the Pacific Coast. Sixth-graders and staff members do a carne asada dinner and pancake breakfast. Seventh-graders decorate for the eighth-grade graduation dance and eighth-graders plan the graduation ceremonies.

The Ballico-Cressey School District has 389 students from transitional kindergarten to eighth grade. Cressey School houses kindergarten through second grades while Ballico School has third through eighth grades.

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