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Seventh-graders get hands on with agriculture and technology


Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Cory Simonson, 12, a seventh-grader at Havre Middle School, sticks his hand into a cow's rumen, its fourth stomach, through a cannula on the cows side Friday at the Northern Agricultural Research Center. The stomach, which produces a smell similar to spoiled milk, is the temperature of a "hot tub" from all the bacteria breaking down the hay and grass, said Tim DelCurto, Ph.D., who is standing behind Simonson. The students were at NARC for the Agriculture Science and Technology Tour.

Friday, the seventh-grade class from Havre Middle School had the opportunity to spend the day at Northern Agricultural Research Center learning, hands-on, what agriculture and technology they can use in the future no matter what career path they choose.

This day-long Agriculture Technology and Science Tour began about three years ago, Kremlin farmer Ryan McCormick said.

It was started, he added, after he was talking with Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson.

"Andy was wondering if there is something they could do agriculturally ... to show (students) different (job) possibilities in agriculture," McCormick said.

This event is to highlight agriculture and technology, McCormick added.

He also said this event wouldn't have been successful without the help of NARC Superintendent Darrin Boss.

He added that seventh grade is a good time for this education and research tour because the agriculture and technology ties in well with STEM - science, technology, engineering and math. It is important to teach how ag is very STEM-based, Boss said.

"The crew does a great job (running the event)," he added.

NARC Assistant Professor Maryse Bourgault said the event takes a lot of coordination but it is a one-time-a-year tour the staff looks forward to.

The event consisted of the seventh-grade classes being split into smaller groups and attending presentations at nine different stations.

The stations included:

• Mitochondria - The Powerhouse of the Cell

• Communicable Diseases and Vaccinations

• Bio-control of Montana Pests

• Pulling Nitrogen from Thin Air

• Soil Health

• Beef Quality and BBQ

• Beef Cattle Artificial Insemination

• Microbiome of Ruminant Stomach

• Compost Making 101

Each station introduced its topic in different ways and with different activities, such as being able to view species of pests, learning about and viewing the mitochondria of a cell, seeing a rainfall simulator, walking through an inflatable tunnel explaining about soil health, playing games to understand how communicable diseases are spread and viewing how to artificially inseminate a cow using the real reproductive organs.

Some of the stations included hands-on activities for the kids. At the Pulling Nitrogen from Thin Air station the students learned about the bacteria that actually helps the plants grow and they were able to wash the plant roots to see the nodules that were formed by the bacteria.

"Some ammonia is not accessible to plants by air," NARC Research Associate Shelly Green said.

"There is so much more to see than what is on the surface," she added as the students observed the roots.

Also in Compost Making 101, students were able to get their hands dirty while learning how to make the best piles for composting.

"Maybe they can go home and help mom in the garden now," Boss said.

Another unique opportunity the seventh-graders had was the chance to stick their hands inside a living cow, as some of the cows at NARC have a surgical incision in their side, giving people the opportunity to study the organs of the cow while it is still alive and healthy.

Hector Valdez, 12, said he was anxious to put his hand inside the body cavity.

"It doesn't look so pretty," he added.

Katelyn LaMere, 12, said that though it was "warm and gross" to put her hand in the cow, she said she wanted to try because it was something new.

The organizers and staff working the event said they wanted to provide a fun and educational day for students, but a large part of it was highlighting not only the correlation between technology and agriculture but also the future job fields out there for the students.

Agriculture is a large part of the region's economy, McCormick said, but a majority of the young population isn't involved in agriculture.

"We wanted to showcase the careers in ag," he added.

"You don't have to just be a farmer to be in ag," Research Associate Roger Hybner said to the students at his station. "There are diversified fields in ag."

Some of the students attending the event today grew up around agriculture and hope to work in it in the future.

"I grew up on a farm," said Yelena Miller, 13.

She added that she is learning new agriculture information today and she is hoping to farm as a future career.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

LaMere said she hopes to work with animals in the future.

"I have been around cows and animals my whole life," she added.

"Since the beginning of seventh grade, I have been interested in agriculture as a career," said Thomas Kase, 13, adding that he enjoyed learning about good bacteria in plants during the tour.

Other students don't plan on working in the ag field but still enjoyed learning new things.

"I want to work in automotive design," Noah Kasper, 12, said, adding that he had learned a lot during the tour in topics like composting.

Valdez, who said the day had been pretty good, said he would like to be a pilot but he would possibly use agriculture in the future if he owned his own land.


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