Mobile lab offers agriculture on wheels

Throughout the week, elementary and middle school students from the St. Marys Area School District gathered for hands-on, interactive experiments inside the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab.The lab, contained inside a 32-foot trailer, was situated outside the St. Marys Area Middle School’s outdoor classroom.Mobile Ag Ed Lab Instructor Greg Burns of Lake City worked with students on a variety of experiments, all of which meet the state’s science curriculum standard.“This is the lab’s first time here in St. Marys. We plan to visit Ridgway in May and will be going to Brockway in January for the second time at that school. We were just in Punxsy two weeks ago and have been in Brookville and DuBois,” Burns said. “This is one of six mobile ag labs in the state. This lab mostly travels within the northwestern part of the state.”Students in grades three through seven conducted experiments which emphasized the state’s primary commodities such as the environment, food biotechnology and fiber. During each experiment, students had to work in groups of two to three and solve a problem by forming a hypothesis, collecting data and drawing conclusions.Among the elementary lessons were “Snack Attack,” where students tested popular snack food items for fat content and studied their nutritional content; and “How Well Do You Wash,” which tested the effectiveness of various hand-washing methods. The middle school experiments included “Water Analysis,” where students collected data and analyzed the workings of an imaginary town experiencing pollution in its wells, and “Corn to Plastic,” where students gained an understanding of the concept of a byproduct as they investigated the environmental impact of Styrofoam and Eco foam and then investigated the making of plastic from corn compared to the making of plastic from petroleum.“We have six classes a day here,” Burns said. “We typically accommodate 24 students, but we’ve had as many as 32 in here.”The lab can accommodate up to 900 students per week during five to six 50-minute classes.Students in kindergarten through second grade also visited the lab and participated in a tour of the unit. For more on this story, see the Nov. 1 edition of The Daily Press.

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