Harper students get hands-on lesson in Georgia Ag Experience

May 3—THOMASVILLE — Thursday morning, students at Harper Elementary got a hands-on lesson on working in agriculture through the Georgia Ag Experience.

The Georgia Ag Experience is a unique STEM-based educational program that invites 3rd-5th grade students across Georgia to explore the vast opportunities in agriculture. The experience uses technology and digital learning that allows students to take a deep dive into seven different agricultural commodities.

The eight stations include poultry, peanuts, beef & dairy, cotton, horticulture, fruit, vegetables, and pecans, forestry, and careers.

During the poultry segment, students play an engineering video game that allows them to engineer a poultry house and raise chickens, while the peanut segment gives the students an augmented reality tractor simulator where they can experience peanut planting, harvesting, and post-harvest production.

Fifth grader Karis Revels loved the poultry segment, sharing it was one of her favorite activities the class partook in.

"We had to basically make sure the chickens survived," she said. "It gets to me because I have feelings for animals. I really love chickens and I really care about them and wanted to take care of them."

Other segments including beef & dairy allow kids to play an animated video game that helps them experience industry careers through the cow's lifecycle. Cotton helps students explore the stages of cotton production through a video spinner and the horticulture segment is experienced through an augmented reality tablet scene that follows the journey of a plant from a greenhouse to the garden center and eventually to the backyard.

Students in William Sherrard's STEM/Robotics class are familiar with horticulture, as the class currently has a garden they care for daily.

"We've got a garden going in my STEM class that they've been learning how to care for," he said. "This experience goes along with it perfectly."

Teaching in a city school, Sherrard has tried to open his students' minds to the possibilities of careers in agriculture through the small garden but felt the Georgia Ag Experience gave the class a chance to experience new things.

"They normally think of ag as just farming, but it's so much more than that," he said. "They love the garden, where we grow broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, and allowing them to harvest that has been great for them. I've been amazed at how much they've retained and shared out here during the questions."

Students have the opportunity to take a career quiz during the Mobile Ag Experience that can point them in the direction of how they could work in agriculture, while still pursuing their favorite topics.

Enjoying the opportunities already available to her in the classroom garden, this excited Revels.

"At first when I heard of agriculture, I didn't really know what it was," she said. "I thought it would be kind of boring, but after I learned about it more, it came to me about how cool it could actually be to do something with."

Sherrard was happy to hear that the garden has not only had an impact on Revels but so has the Georgia Ag Experience.

He hopes that through all the activities provided by the Georgia Ag Experience, Revels, along with his other students will continue to pursue an interest in any area their minds were drawn to.