EATON — Children from the YWCA and the Boys and Girls Club in Hamilton were able to experience the Preble County Fair this past summer thanks in large part to the efforts of 24 students from the Eaton High School FFA Chapter.
As part of the students’ Agriculture STEM Day, sophomore Kaitlyn Niehaus applied for a $2,500 grant through the Agricultural and Community Outreach Program to help pay for the expense of the trip for the 40 children coming from Hamilton to Preble County.
Niehaus explained, she and her fellow students decided they wanted to reach a group of students who had not been exposed to agriculture before and give them an opportunity to experience agricultural life.
The children arrived to the fairgrounds at 9:30 a.m. where they were given a pre-test to display their current understanding of agriculture.
They then spent the remainder of the morning attending eight stations for twenty minutes at time, each covering a different aspect of agriculture.
The station topics included service animals, horses, poultry and rabbits, beef, equipment and technology, pigs, goats and sheep and dairy.
Senior Aaron Hendricks helped lead the agriculture and equipment and GPS technology station at the fairgrounds.
“I’ve always been interested in farm equipment and farming its self,” Hendricks said. “The kids definitely enjoyed the tractors that drove themselves with GPS systems — technology is so amazing today.”
“It was a new thing for the kids,” he continued. “These kids grew up in more urban situations and they don’t get to experience the farm life as much. When they experience it they actually like it for the most part, and that’s cool to see.”
Niehaus spoke about her day at the goat station: “I thought it was so cool to let the kids walk the goats like they were at the fair — they were all really excited, some were a little afraid at first but once they opened up to it they really enjoyed it.”
After spending time at each station the children then met for lunch before ending the day by playing farm games, according to Niehaus.
One exciting aspect for Niehaus was the students displaying a better grasp on agriculture after leaving the fairground. She said the students’ test scores were raised 12 percent compared to the pre-tests given before the stations.
Niehaus is also a member of the ag promotion committee and hopes to make the event an annual one.
“We used to do kindergarten days but we stopped — we would like to combine what we did with this and do something similar at the end of the school year for kindergartners with the grant money.”
According to Niehaus, she spent around 20 hours coordinating the event, as she was required to make the station schedule and display full usage of the grant money through a budget she prepared for the STEM Day.
The Eaton Board of Education recognized Niehaus as the student of the month in September for her efforts on the project.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @ aschmidt_RH.