Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ag Pen Pals

Barb & I have been Ag Pen Pals for many, many years. This is a program organized in Nebraska by Nebraska Farm Bureau that matches farm families with classrooms across the state. The farm families are asked to just write three letters through the course of the school year. If possible we try to visit the classroom at least once in the year. Most of the classrooms are in Omaha and Lincoln, our 2 largest cities. But we've discovered that students in smaller towns don't know much about agriculture either.

This year we are matched with a classroom in Lexington, my home town. The teacher was just a year behind me in school so we've know each other a long time. She decided to join the program this year because many of her students were from a farm, just not from the United States. Her class is called the Newcomers because they are newcomers to the U.S. and most of them are learning English.

Our class has 12 second and third graders from 7 countries around the world. The first time we visited our class was after harvest and only some of the students could ask us questions in English. Other students had to translate for those who could not speak English. The kids were laughing as they had discovered that the Spanish they speak in one country does not always match up with the Spanish from another country.

The first visit some of their questions came as a complete surprise. One little girl asked why Barb had the same last name as I did. In her former country the women do not take the husband's family name when they get married. In their first letters to us (around Thanksgiving) another girl told us she was thankful for a house, as she had never lived in a house before. Several of these children grew up in refugee camps. We are so fortunate to live in America!!

We visited a second time this week as part of Ag Week (see last post). What a fantastic change! As we walked in the door many of the students rushed over to give us a hug! They were all asking questions and chatting in English.

We had an experiment for them to start. We thought since it is spring we would have them watch a corn seed sprout. Each student got a zip lock bag and the teacher put their names on them. Than each got a cotton ball and got it wet. I handed out 2 kernels of corn that came from our bin. They put the kernels on the wet cotton ball inside the bag and sealed it.

Hopefully next week they will see some roots and shoot emerge.

Our stash of hats, after the giveaway!
Each student then got to pick out a farmer hat for themselves since they had just planted corn. We always get a bunch of hats from all over and they were thrilled to help relieve our closet. One student was especially happy to get a Case hat as his father is a mechanic on a farm and works on Case equipment.

Next they were asking all kinds of questions about farming and living on the farm. They were amazed when they heard we have baby chickens coming in the mail. They had never thought that our farm cats and dog have jobs to do on the farm.

We are working with the teacher and her principal to get the students out to the farm when we start planting corn in a few weeks. You can be sure we'll post about that then.

If you ever wanted to feel really appreciated, make arrangements to visit with a classroom in your hometown. No matter what your occupation the students will enjoy getting to know you and love that you care enough about them to show up.
Our Ag Pen Pal class with their hats.

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