“The fourth-graders are asking questions fast and furious,” said Payson High School (PHS) animal sciences teacher David Rutherford.
He and more than a dozen of his Future Farmers of America (FFA) students came up to the Pine Strawberry Elementary School to teach the kindergartners through fifth-grade students about seeds, soil and fertilizers through the Nutrients 4 Life program.
“We’re teaching them the scientific method,” said Rutherford. “They will have a two-week project to grow beets — we helped them by bringing sprouts.”
The Nutrients 4 Life Foundation has a program called Helping Communities Grow that honors FFA chapters that create hands-on educational programs for their communities.
Nutrients 4 Life started in 2004 by seven fertilizer companies: Agrium, Cargille, CF Industries, PotashCorp, Royster Clark, Simplot and Terra Industries to “provide science-based information that helps educate people about the beneficial role of fertilizer” in food and plant production.
Rutherford and his students decided to collaborate with PS principal Cody Barlow to bring the high school and elementary students together despite the distance. Pine is a 20-minute drive from Payson.
“I’m on his advisory board,” said Barlow. “I thought this was a great way to get my kids comfortable with going to Payson.”
The Rim Country only has one high school. All students from Pine, Strawberry and Tonto Basin ultimately funnel into the school.
In Katie Ast’s kindergarten classroom, Alyssia Castile and Katherine Herrera showed off seeds and sprouts to the students.
As they passed around the sprouted bean seeds, the children’s eyes lit up and they leaned in to look closely at the sprouts.
Across the hall in Candie Paine’s second-grade classroom, Emma Greenleaf and Brianna Aguirre had the students analyze different soils.
One soil came from outside and the other from a purchased bag of topsoil from Walmart.
The students picked apart the soil on a paper that had circles marked, animal material, plant material, larger pieces and smaller pieces.
As they worked to separate the soil, Greenleaf stood up and showed them a Mason jar full of soil.
“We shook this big old jar of dirt, what will fall first?” she asked.
The students focused on dividing up the soils.
“Sand,” said Greenleaf to help them along, “What is the heaviest?”
Several second-graders piped up, “Clay!”
“Right,” said Greenleaf.
Paine said the presentation worked well with the curriculum she was teaching about plants and nutrients.
“We worked to make sure the information fit the curriculum,” said Rutherford.
In Wanda Utz’s fourth-grade classroom, Caleb Burket, Adam Jergens and Nathan Crane taught the students about fertilizers.
“It’s funny,” said Rutherford, “Caleb really got into learning about the fertilizers and he was telling his dad, ‘You need to fertilize this because the leaves are burned.’”
Rutherford said the FFA students practiced teaching in front of each other before they came to Pine.
Burket professionally took the teaching helm.
“Has your teacher gone over with you the scientific method?” he asked.
The fourth-graders nodded their heads.
After hearing their answer, Burket and his teaching buddies passed out worksheets for an experiment to see which fertilizer was better for growing beets.
Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley donated the plants to help the project.