Instant Aggies

The Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab has been at the Warren Area Elementary Center (WAEC) from Monday through Thursday.

Elementary teachers chose two combination investigation and demonstration projects involving soybean uses during an in-service consultation about a month earlier. They used the intervening time to teach related subjects using a multi-disciplinary approach.

Second- and third-grade students conducted experiments in “The Colorful Bean” to determine if petroleum-based crayons or soybean-based crayons produced the brightest colors, least amount of flakiness and best covering power. The session ended with a crayon production demonstration and each student received a soybean-based crayon.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students “planted” a soybean in plaster of Paris in “The Mighty Smooth Bean” to determine the bean’s strength, and finished the session with a demonstration that includes take-home samples of soy-based lip balm.

As Rayme Scalise’s third grade class entered the lab, Glen Burns, an instructor with the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation, told the students, “When you walked in this trailer, everyone of you became a scientist, and scientists work quietly.”

He then explained that everyone had a connection to farms “every single day.” Posters on the walls of the lab depict foods, clothing and products that are derived from farming.

Burns asked the class, “What are jeans made of?” A student suggested wool, and Burns said wool is too warm and itchy for warm weather.

Another said cloth, and he replied, “Yes, but that is like saying you get milk from a grocery store. You buy it there, but it comes from a cow.”

Finally a student suggested cotton and Burns agreed, saying, “Yes, and cotton is raised on somebody’s farm somewhere down south where the growing seasons are longer.”

Returning to soybean theme, Burns told the students that soybeans are the second largest crop raised in the country.

He said, “Everyone of you is an expert in crayons. So what are they made of?” Someone suggested wax, and he said the most popular crayons are made from oil, and Prang crayons are made from soybeans.

The class then experimented with both types, and found they preferred the colors, texture and coverage of the soybean-based crayons.

Ann Ryan, assistant principal at WAEC, wrote the grant for the program through the Warren County Farm Bureau. She said of the $3,190 cost for a week of the lab, $690 was a sponsorship from the foundation, $1,000 was a sponsorship from the Pennsylvania Soybean Board, and $1,500 came from the Warren County Farm Board making the visit free to the school.

The Ag Lab is owned and operated by the foundation, which is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.