Mary Ann Van Osdell, Martin, Karen M.
SHREVEPORT, La. – AgMagic, a new exhibit at the State Fair of Louisiana, can be likened to opening a fun encyclopedia.
Only all of the five senses are involved while learning takes place.
AgMagic is an interactive, visually stimulating, educational experience for children and their families, said Karen Martin, 4-H regional coordinator for the LSU AgCenter, which is co-sponsoring the exhibit with the State Fair of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
AgMagic is open during normal fair hours, but guided tours were conducted for 2,000 third- through sixth-graders Nov. 4-6.
Activities in the exhibit include counting the years of growth on a large tree “cookie”; digging for vegetables; touching soil, chickens and earthworms; smelling herbs; tasting honey; seeing a mini cotton gin run; and looking at insects under a microscope.
Part of AgMagic includes sampling Louisiana products and learning about their nutritional value.
“I found a potato.” “There’s an onion.” “I touched two cotton seeds” are some of the exclamations heard throughout the exhibit.
Students in school groups tasted three super foods or functional foods – pecans, cranberries and sweet potatoes – then voted on whether they liked or disliked them.
Exhibit staff reported votes were positive on all three. “They overwhelmingly liked everything,” said LaDonna Chreene, an LSU AgCenter nutrition educator.
“Super foods give you added health benefits,” said Joan Almond, LSU AgCenter agent in Webster Parish. “They help protect you against disease.”
Other LSU AgCenter agents taught that pecans provide energy, sweet potatoes have fiber and cranberries make great snacks.
“I learned that cranberries are used in medicine,” Nicholas Payne said. He was taking notes to remember items for a test he would take when he returned to school.
“Green June bugs have hair,” Cody Cathey recalled after thumbing through his notes.
“Pig skin makes a football,” added Travis Simmons.
Visitors finish their AgMagic experience by leaving their mark on the 4-H graffiti wall, playing 4-H hopscotch and seeing a petting zoo.
“Everything was wonderful. It was the best field trip we have ever been on,” said Madora Abney, third-grade teacher at Apollo Elementary School. “Most kids don’t get to see this at all. It was fascinating to see how food gets from the farm to the table.”
Even parents had their favorite exhibits. “I liked the pecan lineup,” Michael Byrnes said. “I didn’t know there were so many kinds.”
“Louisiana 4-H has always been an integral part of the State Fair of Louisiana,” said Chris Giordano, the fair’s president and general manager. “We are honored to be able to give both youth and adults visual and hands-on opportunities that teach them agriculture, which is the ultimate goal of AgMagic at the State Fair.”
Mary Ann Van Osdell