i-Three Issue Corps – Kids, Compost, Crops & Consumption

The Kids, Compost, Crops & Consumption team from North Dakota State University Extension aims to increase youth involvement in the food cycle. The target outcomes include: 1) increasing students’ knowledge about agriculture and where their food comes from, 2) increasing vegetable consumption among students and 3) teaching students how to garden as an economical option for fresh food. The project timeline was December 2015-May 2016. Each month from December thru May a new lesson was presented to 85 3rd and 4th grade urban students. In this post, we will share a little about the first 3 lessons. In a later entry, we will discuss the last 2 lessons as well as the final review lesson.

Lesson 1: Livestock – Kelcey Hoffmann, Extension Agent/Cass County

In lesson one, students were introduced to everything that livestock has to offer! This lesson focused on what livestock consume, where they are raised, and what they provide to the food cycle as well as our everyday life. The students witnessed the different feedstuffs that cattle, sheep, and pigs consume along with all the by-products they provide us with! Students were amazed on what one animal provides. They were excited to see that yogurt, butter, and cheese also come from a dairy cow. By the end of the lesson, students realized that farmers and ranchers spend their days making sure to raise a safe food source, and that the grocery store is just the meeting place between the consumers and the producers!

Students touching the different feedstuffs.
Students touching the different feedstuffs.

Lesson 2: Compost – Mary Berg, Area Extension Specialist/Livestock Environmental Management

Lesson two was all about turning manure into compost. Most of the students involved had never been around livestock, much less manure! Mary had manure in a baggie and had each student had the opportunity to squeeze and smell (through the bag) cattle manure. The students also had to shake a mystery bucket (no peeking!) before talking about the process, from manure to compost. At the end the students were able to peek in the mystery bucket to see manure and straw inside. They were able to relate back that they were mixing, an important step in the production of compost.

Students trying to determine why they were shaking the mystery bucket (turning compost).
Students trying to determine why they were shaking the mystery bucket (turning compost).

A compost tote was started and each student was able to contribute either a carbon or nitrogen source.

Contents of the compost tote the students put together. The wire is part of a temperature monitoring device.
Contents of the compost tote the students put together. The wire is part of a temperature monitoring device.

Lesson 3: Soil – Alicia Harstad, Extension Agent/Stutsman County

Lesson three focused on the soil particles, sand, silt, and clay and how they influence soil structure. Students learned that the amount of sand, silt and clay in a soil will influence the water infiltration rate and nutrient holding capacity of that soil. The amount of nutrients and water in a soil will influence how well plants grow. Adding compost to soil can help increase the nutrient and water holding capacity while also allowing water to infiltrate through the soil to avoid waterlogged roots.

Students observing and touching soil.
Students observing and touching soil.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry and the conclusion of our KCCC program!