GRAND ISLAND - Thousands of students from across Nebraska were able to learn about agriculture and the various careers associated with it as part of Nebraska’s Largest Classroom at the Nebraska State Fair on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Sarah Polak, experience coordinator for Raising Nebraska, said there were 3,315 youth registered to attend Nebraska’s Largest Classroom. She added the students come from all over Nebraska to spend a day at the State Fair, learning about agriculture and exploring the fairgrounds.
Nebraska’s Largest Classroom focuses on Nebraska youth in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Polak said the program brings in outside partners, as well as Nebraska Extension educators, to provide an educational component to the State Fair with hands-on programs and activities.
Some of the partners who set up displays in the Nebraska Building as part of Nebraska’s Largest Classroom were the Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation and Midwest Dairy.
Nichole Simpson, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Loup County Elementary School in Taylor, said she brought 36 kids from the school to attend Nebraska’s Largest Classroom on Thursday. She said the school typically brings students to participate every other year.
“We live in an agricultural community with a lot of ranching around us. So it is important for kids to come and visit. It gives them a little taste of the State Fair,” she said. “I hope the kids get excited about coming and want to continue to come in the future with their own families back home.”
As they made their way around the Nebraska Building, the Loup County Elementary Students were able to learn about various careers in agriculture that may not be directly on a farm or a ranch from Brooke Tempel, an education specialist with the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
Tempel said she discussed 16 different careers on Thursday that fit into different fields. Some of the careers she talked to students about included engineers, equipment operators, journalists, lobbyists and veterinarians.
“We want to share that even if you did not live or grow up on a farm or a ranch, that does not mean that you cannot have a career in agriculture,” Tempel said. “All of these careers help farmers and ranchers out in some way, whether it is science and technology, engineering and math.”
Simpson said despite living in an agricultural community, she sees her students learning more about agriculture as they participate in the activities.
“We saw a great presentation of all the different careers because they see only farmers and ranchers,” she said. “But there is so much more to it that they can do.”
Tempel said with 57,900 jobs in agriculture going unfilled every year, it is important that students are aware of what careers are out there. She said she engaged with kids Thursday to see what careers they are interested in and tied them into potential careers in agriculture.
“We are just making kids aware that there are opportunities to be involved in agriculture,” Tempel said. “A lot of these jobs can be done in their small-town communities, so it is getting kids to come back to the rural communities, but also engaging with Lincoln Public Schools and Omaha Public Schools so they are aware that agriculture is important.”
Parents Amanda Fenster and Brenda Favazza chaperoned a group of Seedling Mile students on Thursday. They said there were about 65 students who attended the program at the State Fair.
“I think this (program) is really hands on,” Favazza said. “The kids are able to retain information more this way.”
Fenster added: “It is nice for city kids to see how Nebraska really is.”
Seedling Mile Elementary fourth-grader Dakota Fenster said she and her classmates learned about different things related to agriculture and also saw exhibits throughout the state fairgrounds Thursday as part of the Nebraska’s Largest Classroom program.
Dakota said she was able to learn about various farm animals while at the State Fair on Thursday. She added her favorite animal to learn about was deer.
Dakota and fellow Seedling Mile fourth-grader Adleigh Favazza said Nebraska’s Largest Classroom was different than a regular visit to the State Fair as it was more interactive and they were able to take part in educational activities where they learned about agriculture.