Students learn about AgMagic at Louisiana State Fair

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Martin, Karen M.  |  1/4/2011 1:10:51 AM

Mike Hall, entomologist at the Pecan Research Station in Shreveport, teaches the participants at the AgMagic exhibit about insects. Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell (click on photo for larger image)

Sarah Sterling, research associate, showed the students what food looks like before it gets to the grocery store. Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Natalie Hunsicker, 4-H agent, tells the children about cotton and distributed seed at her station during AgMagic. Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell

Kim Cockerham, extension agent in Jackson Parish, lets the children touch baby chicks as she explains about the poultry industry in Louisiana. Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell

A participant at AgMagic looks at insects under a microscope at one exhibit. Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell

News Release Distributed 11/05/10 

SHREVEPORT, La. – AgMagic at the State Fair answered a question that has been bugging one Bossier City student for years.

“What happens if a bug gets into cotton?” asked Dallas Kaiser, 10, a student at Meadowview Elementary School in Bossier City.

“I’ve been holding that question since I was 4,” he said, adding that he was going to plant the cotton seed he collected at the exhibit.

The events at AgMagic included watching a mini cotton gin run, digging for vegetables, touching baby chicks and looking at insects under a microscope.

AgMagic is an interactive, visually stimulating educational experience for children and their families, said Karen Martin, LSU AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator. It was open for all during normal fair hours, but guided tours were conducted for 2,000 third- through sixth-graders Nov. 3-5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

AgMagic features crops, forestry, wildlife, horticulture, nutrition, entomology, animals and 4-H.

Cotton is grown in long rows down the field, said Jim Hayes, research associate at the Red River Research Station. He ran samples of cotton through a mini gin. “It used to take a long time to pull the seed out of the cotton,” he said.

“It feels like fur,” said Latroy Pearman, a classmate of Kaiser’s.

“If insects feed on the reproductive parts of the cotton plant, the boll will not form and you won’t get as much cotton, so you have to spray for insects,” Hayes said.

Ricky Kilpatrick, LSU AgCenter forester, showed the children how a forest gets thinned. The students stood on dots in rows with their arms extended. Kilpatrick said that if they were crowded in a room and one got sick, they’d all likely get sick. “It’s the same with trees,” he said. “The way we help trees grow is to cut some.”

Gary Stockton, LSU AgCenter agent, told the students poultry production is strong in Lincoln Parish. The children watched as chicks pecked their way out of eggshells.

“There will be a quiz,” said Stephanie Moreau, a third grade teacher at Platt Elementary. “We’ll go back over this on the bus, and I’ll give copies to other teachers.”

Teachers received lessons, activity sheets and posters to take back to the classroom.

Students spent 15 minutes at the insect exhibit that included Louisiana moths and butterflies, leaf-cutting ants, wasps, bees, bugs from the tropics, a termite nest and insects that attack pine trees.

One section of AgMagic includes nutrition education.

“To have a healthy body when you’re older, you have to start when you are young,” said LaDonna Chreene, LSU AgCenter nutrition educator. She suggested choosing smaller sizes at the drive-through.

A wheelbarrow full of lard and sugar provided a visual on the amount of fat and sugar consumed in one year if a child eats a hamburger, French fries and a soft drink each day. That translates to 50 pounds of fat and 65 pounds of sugar, Chreene said.

Children received “Cut the Fat” stickers to wear.

Thomas Talley, a Master Gardener, showed what is right and wrong to put in a compost pile. “Fertilizer is like vitamins for plants,” he said. “You can buy it or make your own from scraps around your house.”

Visitors finished their AgMagic experience by leaving their mark on the 4-H graffiti wall, playing 4-H hopscotch and seeing the petting zoo, which housed goats, calves, pigs, sheep, poultry and rabbits.

Mary Ann Van Osdell
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