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Third-grade students learn about agriculture at NMSU-hosted Kids, Kows & More

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Do you know how many gallons of water a milk cow drinks in a day? Or, how long should you wash your hands to remove hidden germs? Or, how fast can a honeybee fly?

Man in white jumpsuit holding canister pointing at students
Joran Viers, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent in Bernalillo County, talks about using a smoker while working with honeybees during the annual Kids, Kows and More field trip for third-graders. Third-grade students learned about milking cows, the importance of hand-washing to fight germs, and blacksmithing. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

These and many more questions were answered for Albuquerque third-grade students during the annual Kids, Kows and More program hosted by New Mexico State University's Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service at the Expo New Mexico horse arena Oct. 22-23.

The 730 students from 12 elementary schools watched a cow being milked by a machine, and a blacksmith making a spoon from a red-hot metal rod. They looked at talcum powder "germs" under a black light, and then saw how many remained after washing their hands. They learned about ranching and how important bees are to agriculture.

"What better way to experience agriculture than to see, smell and hear it," said Elliot Sachse, Bernalillo County Extension 4-H agent. "Kids, Kows and More is a fun, entertaining, educational, learning field trip."

Each year across New Mexico, 7,540 third-graders in 13 counties participate in similar free field trips that are sponsored by the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' 4-H youth development program and the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center, New Mexico Beef Council, Southwest Dairy Farmers, Creamland Dairy and other agri-businesses.

Cooperative Extension offices in Chaves, Colfax, Dona Ana, Guadalupe, Otero, Quay, Roosevelt, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Socorro, Torrance and Union counties also host Kids, Kows and More programs for elementary school children. Dona Ana County and Sandoval County have the largest participation with 1,344 and 1,035 students attending, respectively.

"Because we don't live in a rural area, it's really helpful to show the students where milk comes from and how bees make honey because they don't see that where we live," said Amanda Standridge, third-grade teacher at Sunset View Elementary, who brings her class annually to the event.

This was the first year Angela McBride's Hodgin Elementary third-grade class attended the field trip.

"I think the kids really enjoyed it," McBride said. "The activities gave the kids a lot of information about something they are probably not exposed to while living in a city like Albuquerque."

Amanda Gonzales of Cross of Hope Elementary said she could tell her students were listening and engaged and thought they were able to get a lot out of the demonstrations.

"The kids were taking notes and paying attention to what was going on," she said.

This year in Albuquerque, the students learned about honeybees from a representative of the Albuquerque Beekeeper Association. They learned that honeybees can fly approximately 15 miles per hour, honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, and the typical beehive makes more than 400 pounds of honey per year.

"I really liked the hand-washing demonstration. It was a really good visual for them," Standridge said.

During the Germ Detective session, the students learned the best way to ensure their hands are not harboring germs is to sing the alphabet song while washing their hands so that it takes 20 seconds, which is how long it takes to kill germs.

While watching representatives of the Southwest Association of Blacksmith Artisans hammering red hot metal into a spoon, the students learned about the long history of "smithing" and how it relates to the agriculture industry today.

The students learned about two aspects of the cattle industry - ranching and dairy.

"The students always love the dairy cow. Afterward, I hear them talk about milking the cow. One year there was a sheep-shearing exhibit that the kids really thought was great," Standridge said.

Cody Lightfoot of the Southwest Dairy Farmers talked about the importance of milk in the students' diet and told the students many interesting facts about dairy cows, including that they drink the equivalent of a bathtub full of water each day. He also demonstrated the electric milking machine. The students watched as milk traveled from the live cow to a clear holding tank.

A representative of the New Mexico Beef Council talked about the business of ranching, both its traditions and its use of technology. The students gained an appreciation and understanding of those devoted to feeding the nation and being stewards of the land and its resources.

"I thought it was great for them to learn about the different aspects of living in New Mexico," McBride said.