M-S students showcase all things ag in community show

With a packed greenhouse and busy learning stations, Mahomet-Seymour High School agriculture teacher Jennifer Wherley considered Saturday's Ag Show a "great day all around."

The community event behind the high school featured the fruits of the M-S ag business students' labors. Ag students began their efforts in January with the start of their planning process for the marketing campaign.

The event is "two-sided," Wherley explained, as it promotes ag business students' study of educational marketing campaigns. Students used previous ag lessons provided last Wednesday and Thursday to first- and second-grade Sangamon Elementary students as the basis for their study.

"They developed an educational marketing take-home product to see what the percentage of the students who would come back on Saturday was in comparison with the national average," Wherley said. "In my experience, the percentages are not the same."

Educational marketing techniques included providing youths word sheets that coincided with a lesson on plant science and the student returning Saturday. The students will examine why some of the booths received a higher return rate than other groups.

"The public side of it is this awesome educational side about ag learning," Wherley said.

Students prepared separate unique activity booths that featured topics such as bees, electricity, landslides, weather and more. The M-S ag students began their marketing and the development of their take-home information in April.

Students Laine Carlton and Jenna Ward taught children about the impact of poor weather on crops.

Carlton's favorite part of the event was teaching the youths about his lesson.

"I think it's fun to see the kids come by and their reactions," he said.

As for Ward, the community's support of the Ag Show year after year means a great deal.

"I think it brings everybody out because they get to see our greenhouse and buy some flowers and also stop in and buy some feed at the store and see what the high schoolers are doing in the community," she said.

Sara Bohlen enjoyed teaching children the science behind greenhouses.

"We talked about irrigation and how the panels take the sun and make it warm in there," Bohlen said. "So we were like, if there's snow on the greenhouse, how can plants grow in the greenhouse? That's kind of our lesson, so we have them come back and planting pansy seeds this morning."

Though the reactions of the first- and second-grade students during their weekday Ag Show was fun for Bohlen, her favorite part was the Partners in Active Learning Systems (PALS) quality time with younger learners. The senior said ag students have the opportunity to be a PAL to a first- or second-grade classroom.

"We have monthly lessons where we go over there and we teach them," she said. "So getting to see your class coming to see you and seeing their faces light up and getting to see them and getting to teach them more, that's my favorite part."

Hannah Kroll amused and interested Ag Show attendees with her two ferrets, Cornell and Maverick. Kroll said she decided to showcase her 2-year-old ferrets as many people are falsely informed on how best to take care of the animals.

"I know a lot of little kids have never seen them so to let them know that they're carnivores, this is how you take care of them and stuff like that," Kroll said. "You could definitely see their eyes light up. You could tell it was a new experience for them."

The junior enjoyed assisting with the fishing station during the Ag Show with first-grade students.

"Some (students) have never been fishing and they thought it was the neatest thing that you could even go fishing," Kroll said. "Opening up their minds to new ideas is awesome."

The Ag Show also provided a free petting zoo, and refreshments including ice cream. Junior Michael Myerscough featured a short-horned heifer named Becks as part of the event's livestock display.

Though he normally shows sheep, Myerscough viewed the event as an excellent way for community members to learn more about the farming industry.

"It shows them a little more about the livestock industry and what agriculture is and not just a cow on a pasture," Myerscough said. "It shows them what this animal can really do."

Myerscough said many youths were surprised to learn how young the heifer was, given her size.

"I think the reactions just to see that is pretty cool," he said. "It's something I think the community likes, and it's good for them to come out and see what we can do and not just a petting zoo."

The event consistently challenges students to "outdo" the previous year's activities.

"You can't really have anything that shines brighter for your favorite part than seeing all facets of the students in our district learning about agriculture, whether it's the high school students studying at the same time, but also having the ability to educate the students who will be coming in to take their place in the future," Wherley said. "I have such pride in it."

The ag teacher views the community event as a way for students to gain real-world experiences for life after high school. Many times Wherley finds her students entering the classroom with an inability to see the end goal, but through team efforts, students receive irreplaceable experiences to prepare them for the collegiate or real-world settings.

"When those opportunities come at them, they have the ambition and the knowledge to rise and soar through that experience and I can't wait to see what they do next with it," she said.

Proceeds from the Ag Sale set the budget for next year's Ag Show and will provide educational resources for the students to use to manage the store.

"The rest go back to the students in the form of a scholarship," Wherley added. "I think it's a great opportunity for the community to see what's out there in ag and to engage and learn about agriculture as our No. 1 industry in our state and this is a great opportunity to showcase that."

Students will host their final plant sale from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the high school's greenhouse. For more information about the plant sales, visit the Mahomet-Seymour Ag Supply Store on Facebook or call 217-586-4962.

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