by Paul R. Kopenkoskey, School News Network
Godwin Heights Public Schools, MI — Unexpectedly, Sonny the horse lets out a high-pitched whinny to the delighted squeals of children gathered around him. The boys and girls ask the owner of the Arabian horse what his neigh means and her reply illustrates why North Godwin Elementary has for a decade poured time and resources into its Harvest Festival.
Now in its 10th year, the Harvest Festival included up close and personal visits with farm animals such as sheep, goats and rabbits. It also featured its own pumpkin patch where boys and girls scrambled to the school’s basketball court to pick one of 400 pumpkins they could take home. Inside the school, farmers explained what’s involved in growing the food that’s sold in grocery stores and exported to the world.
Harvest Festival shows urban students, in a fun way, what’s required to raise livestock and grow produce, not only for the United States but the world, said speech pathologist Toni Browley, who is affectionately known to students as the Harvest Queen.
Feeding People the World Over
Caledonia Farmers Elevator employees Jenna Taylor and Krista Janeschek explained how important soybeans and field corn are to feeding the world’s population.
Both plants help feed the world’s population of seven billion people, said Janeschek. They’ll be all the more important when the world’s population increases to a projected nine billion by 2050.
“The U.S. is No. 1 in soybean production and it produces 41 percent of the world’s corn,” said Janeschek.
What surprised students is the many products they would not expect to be made from soybeans and corn, such as carpet fiber, plywood, aspirin, soap detergents and, of course, foodstuffs such as corn bread, candy, cookie mixes and corn syrup.
Good Questions are Asked
“They come up with lots of really good questions, which is great because so many of our kids have never been to a farm or have never seen farm animals,” said Browley. “They’ve never seen a zucchini or brussel sprouts except for those that are in a can.”
It’s safe to add most of the students never heard a horse neigh. Sunny’s owner, Darcy Fransens, explained the 24-year-old horse could see the nearby trailer that transported him to the school. Horses are herd animals, Fransens explained that to his way of thinking, there is another horse in the trailer that he wants to let know he’s at the school.
Fourth-grader Kim Tran said she discovered horses have side to them she never would have guessed.
“Animals can be really shy sometimes,” said Kim.
School teachers and administrators plan Harvest Festival months in advance. Students’ overwhelmingly vote in favor of a school-wide Harvest Festival instead of a Halloween party, said elementary teacher Julie Broene, known that day as “Farmer Broene” for her deft ability to see to it that all the school’s 400 students each took home a small pumpkin.