Field day puts kids in the outdoors

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Environmental Field Day is a chance for fourth-graders to tap into all their senses.

“I think, overall, that kids don’t get to get out and experience outdoorsy-type situations like we have here today,” said Brandon Webb, head ranger in Wilson County for the North Carolina Forest Service. “They are not behind a computer screen. They are getting all of the senses at one time.”

Webb and other rangers joined representatives from North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the Wilson County Soil and Water Conservation District in putting on the annual visit to the outdoors.

The program for fourth-graders has been going on for more than three decades.

“These kids do not know where their food comes from or how things survive. They do not know how water quality contributes,” said Ricky Hayes, director of the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation District in Wilson County. “They don’t know where these animals come from. They don’t know where they live. This is a good way to show them from start to finish how animals develop, what’s important, and all of the parts of the food chain.”

“I think education of the young people is critical because most of them aren’t raised on farms anymore like they were once,” said Dwight Batts, owner of Batts Tree Farm, where the event was held.

Batts said it’s a chance to get children exposed to men and women who help people who produce food crops.

“These are people who have invested time to get an education and also to do that for the benefit of the public in general and perhaps they will find a career in doing that,” Batts said. “It is one of the parts of the chain of life. We love having them come out. It is fun to see the excitement.”

Jess Anderson, an extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, helped show the children products that were produced from crops grown in Wilson County.

“Extension’s motto and 4-H in general is to learn by doing, so we believe that a hands-on component is essential to learning and to experiencing new things,” Anderson said. “Bringing them out here on a live farm and having them touch and see and smell and experience what goes on out here is a great opportunity to enhance the curriculum. These kids might not grow up to be farmers, but they are going to grow up to be consumers. So having the connection that what they purchase in a grocery story or what they purchased in a clothing store could have been grown or produced in their home county, I think we are just connecting those dots for them so that they become educated consumers.”

Students were given an opportunity to learn about things in the environment that correspond with the curriculum.

“Well, the first group we went to was the animals,” said Abigail Reason, a fourth-grader from Gardners Elementary School. “I knew what water spiders looked like and how they do stuff, but I never knew that they actually had wings, so I thought that was kind of an interesting fact.”

They saw the outdoors and learned how it relates to their own lives, like how the toothpaste they use actually comes from trees.

“By doing this, I feel like every time they pass a tree now, they are going to look at it differently,” Webb said.