Agricultural Sciences

Kids get in touch with farming at Penn State's Ag Progress Days

University Park, Pa. -- As one of the nation's leading agricultural expositions, Penn State's Ag Progress Days, set for Aug. 17-19 at Rock Springs, is well-known for presenting agriculture's technological and research innovations. And young people attending the outdoor event can take part in science-based, hands-on exhibits that combine education and fun as they reveal the fun side of agricultural literacy.

"We want visitors to take away a sense of excitement," said Mya Rushton, project development specialist and coordinator for the 4-H Youth Building. "The goal is to learn by doing; the exhibits will follow the college’s theme of food nutrition and health by offering a variety of interactive activities that will get youth up and moving. Each exhibit is designed for hands-on learning, so youth can take the skills learned and implement them in their homes, schools and communities."

The 4-H Youth Building booths, sponsored by such groups as 4-H, FFA, Pennsylvania Dairy Princess Promotions Services Inc. and several academic departments in the College of Agricultural Sciences, will offer several kid-friendly activities that promote hands-on learning. Nearby, the Family Room Building, located on Main Street between West 8th and West 9th streets at the exposition site, offers several displays dedicated to promoting healthy eating, healthy lifestyles and spending time together as families.

"The building will focus on physical activity and nutrition for young people," Rushton said. "4-H youth leaders from several counties will be there to inspire adult and youth visitors to embrace physical activity." She explained that many of the exhibits were developed as part of the National 4-H "One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas" campaign, which aims to engage a million more young people in science- and research-based programs by the year 2013.

Currently, more than 5 million youth across the nation take part in science, engineering and technology programming year-round through 4-H.

4-H Youth Building features will include:

  • State 4-H Up For the Challenge: encourages youth to get up and get moving with activities on nutrition and fitness as they meet the 4-H State Council officers.
  • Plant Pathology: examine diseased plants and plant specimens under microscopes.
  • Poultry Science: learn about embryology and watch chicks hatch.
  • Dairy Princess Services and Promotions, Inc.: meet dairy princesses from various Pennsylvania counties.
  • Dauphin County Rabbit Club: pet the rabbits and learn about spinning their wool.
  • Meet the FFA state officers and participate in leadership activities.
  • York County Entomology: check out the world of insect activities (Wednesday and Thursday only).
  • Schuylkill County Wilderness Club: members help visitors identify species of animals and plants. (Tuesday only)
  • Pedal Go Karts by Binkley & Hurst-Berg Toys: kids supply the power as they race around on the outdoor serpentine track for fun and exercise.

Adjacent to the 4-H Youth Building, the Family Room building focuses on "strengthening families by providing them with practical information on many aspects of family life," according to Matthew Kaplan, professor of agricultural and extension education, who is coordinating activities for the building.

"Interactive exhibits cover such topics as nutrition and food safety, eating smart, physical fitness, family finances, lead-poisoning prevention, and pesticide education. There will also be some amazing food demonstrations held throughout the day," he said. "Stop by the building for topics and schedules.

"With activities addressing insects, food and nutrition, international agriculture, land-use planning, plant pathology and egg embryology, we are showcasing some of the best our college and educational efforts have to offer."

Family Room exhibits will include a pesticide-education activity that uses mini-golf; family fitness, home food preservation, an interactive display on lead-poisoning prevention in young children, and keeping children active.

"The food demonstrations have been some of the most popular features in the Family Room for many years," Kaplan said. "Visitors will receive free cooking tips on preparing healthy family meals revolving around the theme of 'Garden to Table – A Family Affair.' The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences is also selling a cook book of recipes from all 50 states at the Family Room for the first time as a fundraiser, and a couple of the food demonstrations will be using recipes from the book."

Next to the Family Room building, the Shaver's Creek Environmental Center exhibit returns this year with daily talks and demonstrations featuring live turtles, snakes, amphibians and birds of prey.

Other family-oriented activities at Ag Progress Days will include:

  • The Kid's Climb. Near the Equine Exhibits Building, kids can climb 40-foot-tall trees just like professional arborists, with ropes and harnesses for maximum safety. Climbs are available Tuesday 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to noon and 1-3 p.m.
  • A-Maze-N-Corn. Adjacent to the Crops, Soils and Conservation Tent, a one-acre corn maze will provide a huge green-and-growing puzzle for entire families to wander through, with wheelchair and stroller access.
  • The Farm Safety and Health Quiz Bowl.On Wednesday on West 9th Street near the College Exhibits Building and Theatre, 4-H and FFA teams will battle head-to-head, answering farm safety and health questions in this semifinal quiz bowl event. Winning teams will advance to the state finals at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.

Penn State's Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 17; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 18; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 19. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days Web site at

Kids can climb a tree at Ag Progress Days. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 19, 2010