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Washington High School FFA students make a stop at Lincoln Elementary

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

Harley Montgomery and Kimberly Jimenez, both third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Washington, listen intently as high school FFA students talk to their class about the pork industry on Friday, May 10.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske Harley Montgomery and Kimberly Jimenez, both third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Washington, listen intently as high school FFA students talk to their class about the pork industry on Friday, May 10.
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Students in Mrs. Hinson’s third grade class at Lincoln Elementary were all ears as FFA members from Washington High School talked to them about the pork industry on Friday, May 10.

FFA members visit the third-grade classrooms at the school every year and talk to the students about ag, specifically the pork industry, and how it is used in their daily lives. Misty Hinson, third-grade teacher at Lincoln, said her students get excited to see the high-schoolers and she is glad to see them come because the kids learn from them as well.

She said although Washington is an ag community, not all students live on farms and are able to be up close and personal with the industry. By bringing in people to explain to them pork products are not only for eating but also used in producing things such as footballs and soap, the students get a new outlook on ag education. “They get excited to have those other kids and the fact that they’re teaching something is even better,” she said.

At the front of the class, members from the FFA talked about everything from growing feed to raising pigs to the many uses they have. They passed out coloring sheets, pencils and pork burgers to happy kids. Students joined the members at the front of the classroom to play a game about the growth and development of the animals, to help them understand the circle of life for the animal.

Gracie Greiner, WHS senior and Iowa Pork Queen, said this is something she looks forward to every year because she wants to get kids excited about the industry.

“I think it’s important we start it that young because even though we do live in a rural community, a lot of people don’t live on farms, a lot of people don’t know what farming is, so educating them at a young age and having that impact on their lives, maybe they’ll want to be in agriculture when they grow up even if their parents aren’t in agriculture,” she said. “We just like getting it out there and showing them all that we do.”

Leah Marek, Washington County Pork Queen and WHS junior, said she likes to talk to the students about FFA because it’s not only about agriculture, it’s about leadership.

“I think once you get to high school, you understand that FFA is a thing and it’s there, but you don’t always understand the different opportunities you can get involved with, like leadership opportunities, and learning about all the different aspects of the industry,” she said. “Once people get to high school I think they are more hesitant to join things if they don’t know about them, so once we start educating them at a young age, I think they’ll be more open to getting involved once they get there.”

She said third grade is the perfect age to get them started because they retain the information, ask questions and understand what they are being told.

“This is where their personality really starts to develop and they start to think about what they want to do in the future, so I think it’s really more influential to talk to them about agriculture at this age,” she said.

Principal Teresa Beenblossom said having the high school students in the classroom and being a positive example for the students is essential for their growth.

“I love the modeling of the older kids interacting with the younger kids ... I also think that FFA and 4-H promotes great leadership skills, so putting the older kids into the leadership roles is super good and our kids look up to them.”

She said some students may not have the opportunity to learn about agriculture the way others do and by the high school bringing the learning directly into the classroom, it’s a great benefit to students. “I think it’s a great opportunity for them because we do have some kids who don’t have that opportunity or maybe don’t go to the fair or don’t understand what agriculture is,” she said. “It’s definitely a bonus whenever we can get those older kids in with the younger kids.”