Learning ag 'from farm to table'
Midwest 4-H program provides students a glimpse of the food chain
For Spencer High School senior Ashley Cagle, participating as a youth leader with the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience: Monarchs on the Move program allowed her an opportunity to explore her interest in monarch butterflies while honing her communications skills. Cagle worked with children ages 9 to 15 to illuminate the important role the monarch butterfly plays as a pollinator in the food chain.
"I think my favorite part of the event was speaking to groups of kids about the life cycle of the mighty monarch," Cagle said. "The activities we did ranged from the beginning stages of the monarchs' life cycle to the agriculture side with the buffer strips and the livestock buffers. In between the activities, we played a game that showed the scenarios mimicking a caterpillar's efforts to find food and survive during a hot and dry year or a cold and rainy year."
Sacred Heart sixth-grade student Noah Palmer and his younger sister, Sacred Heart fifth-grade student, Alexandria Palmer attended the Monarchs on the Move Challenge in Clay County. The siblings decided to fit the program into their busy schedules between swim lessons to learn more about monarchs habitat and migration patterns. They agreed, the danger of the species becoming extinct was surprising.
"There was an activity where we put magnets on a fake milkweed plant and grabbed the magnets that had food for the caterpillar without getting hurt by a predator," Alexandra Palmer said. "That was my favorite part of the program."
Cagle participated in various events during the summer. She helped instruct eight children at the 4-H building on the Clay County Fairgrounds on July 3.
"At times we had kids who knew little to nothing about the monarch butterfly and sometimes we had kids who knew quite a bit," Cagle said. "I struggled helping the students who really didn't talk much or had trouble expressing themselves. I would use a light tone and show them live animals. That seemed to pique their curiosity."
Cagle encouraged participants to start their own monarch garden with milkweed and nectar plants, and challenged them to become future leaders working to increase monarch populations.
The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience was founded in an effort to educate young people on the importance of agriculture to help meet population trend projections over the next 40 years years which will result in a 70 percent increase in food production. Over the last several years, the program has featured honey bees, healthy soil and fish farming.