When Liz Peters’ first grade class heard they were going to be farmers for a day, there came from the back of trailer a small cry, “Yay!”
Perhaps a more accurate description of the kids’ new occupation would have been farmer-scientist-lawyers, because the students in the Mobile Ag Science Lab’s “Feast Like A Bug” experiment got down to work answering an accusatory question: “Which insects are guilty?”
“Guilty” in this case meant guilty of eating plant leaves and wrecking farmers’ crops, so to proceed with their prosecution, the kids had to learn some insect anatomy and fun, polysyllabic words, like “piercing proboscis.” Using clothespins as stand-ins for mandibles and pipettes for piercing proboscises, the kids took turns trying to use their bug mouths to eat leaves and seeds. Finally the kids had their men (or more precisely their bugs) and their verdicts. Aphids: Guilty. Grasshoppers: Guilty. Ladybugs: Not Guilty.
This was the third year that Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Mobile Agriculture Science Education Lab has come to Country Day, enriching the Lower School curriculum with experiments such as “Pigment Power,” in which the third grade learned how to use pH to discover which fruit drinks are the healthiest, to “Super Slurpers,” where the fifth grade surveyed four different powders before devising and testing a hypothesis about which would hold the most water.
Bringing the Ag Lab to Country Day was the idea of Lower School Science Coordinator and Science Department Chairwoman Laura Trout. “Most students wouldn’t think of farming as science, but there is a lot that goes into planting, tending, harvesting and distributing our food. The Ag Lab provides a perspective on science that we don’t usually address in our science curriculum. It gives students a better understanding of one of Pennsylvania’s largest industries.
“And it’s just plain fun going to science class in a big trailer,” Trout said.