Ag Books for Kids goes cow crazy in Wyoming | TSLN.com

Ag Books for Kids goes cow crazy in Wyoming

Heather Hamilton
for Tri-State Livestock News

Thousands of Wyoming elementary students learned about beef cattle production through the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee (YF&R) "Ag Books for Kids" program in 2013. The group wrapped up the project for the year on May 1 when state winners were selected in the three contests held in conjunction with the program.

A project that started in 2005 to promote agriculture education and literacy, the YF&R Committee selects an agriculture book suitable for elementary age students each year that also accurately explains an agriculture-related topic.

Upon selecting the book, the committee develops coordinating educational activities that further inform students on subjects covered in the book, and then adapts their annual contest to fit the book's theme. The contest information and activity guidelines are provided to county Farm Bureau groups at the WyFB annual meeting in November, and from there are distributed to local schools and libraries throughout the state.

"For 2013, we selected the book 'Star Becomes a Mother,' by elementary age twins Rianna and Sheridan Chaney. It highlights their favorite Hereford cow, Star, calving, and all the things their dad does each year to care for Star and the other cows and calves on their operation," explained YF&R Chair Raenell Taylor.

She said that this year's book was a huge success with teachers and students alike.

"The student's responded to the fact that it was written by people their age, and they could relate to those children in the book. Seeing the real photos included in the book also gave them better insight to what was being explained. The teachers also loved it, especially for the fact that it was so relevant to Wyoming and the west," explained Taylor.

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Book readings and coordinating activities are conducted in elementary classrooms by YF&R Committee members, local Farm Bureau boards and members, and various volunteers. For 2013 they included an ear tag activity, where students wrote on an actual ear tag while learning about the similarities between tagging cattle to identify them for life and the name a baby is given at birth that also stays with them for life.

"We chose to include a second activity this year called, "A Day without Agriculture," which explained all the things a person will use in a day's time that come from the agriculture industry," noted Taylor. "We have noticed in years past that students could not tell us what the word agriculture meant, and that they did not know it included things like cotton for sheets or wood for desks and pencils, so we added that activity to help inform them of all the things that come from the agriculture industry."

Upon reading the book, students are prepared to participate in one of three affiliated contests: a coloring contest for Kindergarten and first grade, a poster contest for second and third grades, and a creative writing contest for fourth and fifth grades. Kids submit their entries to be judged locally, with winners moving on to a district contest. District winners receive a copy of the book, and advance to the state contest. State winners in each of the three categories receive $50 and a copy of the year's book signed by the Wyoming Governor. State runners up receive $25 and their own copy of the book. Many counties also provide prizes to winners and/or participants.

Through the contests associated with the book, students show what they learned about agriculture and have an additional opportunity to learn more about the industry that provides their food and so much more," explained WyFB Media and Member Relations Director Kerin Clark, who oversees the YF&R Committee in their efforts.

The state Coloring Contest winner for 2013 is first grader Emma Hunsaker of Lincoln County, whose teacher is Mrs. Bagley. State Runner-up is Isabelle Spears of Goshen County. Also a first grader, her teacher is Mrs. Nighswonger. In the Poster Contest, Crook County's Faith Anderson took top honors, and is a third grader taught by Mrs. Anderson. State Runner-up was Reece Halley of Goshen County, who is also a third grader and taught by Mrs. Stalboerger. In the Creative Writing Contest, Niobrara County fifth grader Kate Norman is the winner, and is taught by Mrs. Johnson. Goshen County fifth grader Kadra Clark, taught by Mr. Kinney, is state Runner-up.

"Cattle's vaccinations are a lot like human's vaccinations," wrote Kate in her winning creative writing piece. "We get shots to help keep us healthy and strong. If we get our shots then we can do our jobs and earn money to live. We also won't get anybody else sick. That is the same for cattle. If they don't get vaccinations, their sickness can be contagious too."

Clark noted that the entire Farm Bureau family is very excited for the winners, and about the success of the program as it continues to grow and improve.

"It is wonderful to see what Wyoming students are learning and re-learning about how important agriculture is to us all each and every day. Through the "Ag Books for Kids" program, we are able to utilize the grassroots efforts of county Farm Bureaus and the YF&R Committee in local schools across our state with fantastic results," concluded Clark.

To learn more about Ag Books for Kids or to get on the 2014 classroom schedule, please contact Kerin Clark at kclark@wyfb.org.