ARDMORE, Okla. — Will Moseley raised his hand, and a sudden hush fell over the two teams of teenagers before him. The lead racers, a pair of 14-year-old boys with shaggy hair, had been busy teasing each other. Now their eyes focused only on Moseley. They tensed in their starting positions, waiting for his signal. “Ready,” Moseley said, pausing to build the suspense. “Go!”
The boys dipped bright yellow buckets into tubs of water and dashed 15 yards, splashing their contents into a second set of bins before racing back and passing their bucket to a teammate. The students’ cheers grew more intense as each of the 20 legs of the relay race passed. They clapped. They yelled. They laughed. All the while, they were learning a valuable lesson about agriculture.
“The relay race makes the lesson about water conservation fun and competitive,” said Moseley, a wildlife and fisheries consultant with the Noble Foundation. “At the end of the day, this game is designed with a specific message about the importance of water conservation.”
The race ended with a final splatter of water and an eruption of chants from the winning team. Moseley and Steven Smith, also a wildlife consultant at the Noble Foundation, gathered the group together to bring home their message. “So each teams moved 20 gallons of water,” Smith said. “Do you realize that’s the same amount of water you use in a 10-minute shower?”
From the suddenly quiet crowd, it was clear the teenagers had never considered it. “I had no idea that I used that much water every day,” said Glenn Stodard, 14, later in the day. “It really makes you think about how important water is and how much we’re using.”
Stodard was one of more than 220 seventh- and eighth-graders from eight schools across south-central Oklahoma who attended the Noble Foundation’s second annual Science in Ag Day on May 3 and 4. The educational event is designed to get youth thinking about agriculture by emphasizing the importance of proper management of natural resources and demonstrating the impact the industry has on almost every facet of society from food to the economy.
“One hundred years ago, 40 percent of the United States workforce was employed in agriculture. Today, that number is less than 2 percent,” said Billy Cook, Ph.D., Director of the Agricultural Division at the Noble Foundation. “As each generation passes, we’re appreciating agriculture less. Educating our youth, especially concerning food production, is critical for our future.”
During the course of two days, students from Davis, Greenville, Marietta, Mannsville, Oak Hall (Ardmore), Springer, Turner and Wilson rotated among a series of stations. Each stop featured a unique agriculture- or science-related discipline, including economics, forages, genetics, horticulture, livestock, plant breeding and soils. Each area brought a new, hands-on experience.
At the soils station, students collected and identified insects. A hundred yards away, another group planted their own take-home strawberries as part of their horticulture lesson, while still others participated in a live auction that taught fundamental economic principles. “Science in Ag Day reinforces many of the lessons we’ve been teaching them,” said Wendy Russell, who teaches math at Oak Hall Episcopal School in Ardmore. “We want our students to have these experiences so they can increase their awareness about the importance of agriculture, which is part of our heritage here in Oklahoma. They also get a chance to see the types of careers available.”
In addition to the hands-on agricultural demonstrations, students participated in scientific research, including a plant breeding presentation where they learned how Noble scientists improve crops and an experiment to extract the DNA of a banana. “The students think they know what agriculture is, but they’ve never considered all the science and math involved,” said Tim Vinyard, science teacher at Davis Middle School. “There are so many facets to agriculture, and Science in Ag Day gives them the opportunity to experience it all.”
Jessie Pullen, 14, was one of Vinyard’s students who had her perspective about agriculture forever changed. “When I used to think about agriculture, I’d think about just animals and hay,” Pullen said. “But now I see that it is so much more. It has economics, wildlife, conservation and science in it. It’s all really cool stuff.”