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4,000 third graders flock to MUSD school farm

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Olivia Beebe and Anna Jansen get up close with Cal Crush Clydesdale “Titan” during Thursday’s Manteca Unified School District AgVenture Day. See additional photos on Page A9.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED November 8, 2013 11:27 p.m.

Dayanara Martinez and Jasnoor Kaur, eyes shining with excitement, proudly showed off the small green toys that made high-pitched croaking sounds when their tiny bodies were squeezed. They were not exactly Kermit the Frog. But they were look-alike frogs all right.

The pliable tiny toys were among the many freebies that were given away to the 4,000 plus third graders from the school districts in Manteca, Tracy, Escalon, and Ripon who enjoyed a day of AgVenture Thursday at the Manteca Unified School Farm.

The freebies were not mere toys. They were educational tools that drove valuable lessons home for the kids. For example, the frog served as a reminder for Dayana that the amphibian can swim in the lake without fear of drowning. “But if people swim in the lake, they can drown and die,” she said, remembering a lesson she learned from one of the nearly two-dozen educational booths that took part in the annual field trip designed to teach the young students where the food at their dining table come from, as well as to make them aware of the agricultural crops grown in local farms near the areas where they live.

Lilia Morales said there was a time when she thought “milk came from the store.” On Thursday, she learned “they come out of cows.”

She also learned that “Jersey ones (cows) give butter.” Actually, among milk-producing cows, Jerseys produce milk with the highest cream content making it an excellent source of butter.

Piped in Gagi Klair, “You drink milk because it’s good for you.”

They learned these things about cows and milk – and more –  from East Union High School FFA students Natasha Mehring and Leslie Gonzales who manned the booth about “how dairy production works” with hand-made posters showing the different breeds of milk-producing cows. Gonzales, a junior, has been an AgVenture presenter for three years now. This is Mehring’s first year on the job.

“It was really interesting, really educational for the kids,” said Maira Brown, one of the ten parent volunteers who helped chaperoned the roughly 60 third graders from Great Valley Elementary in Weston Ranch, talking about the field trip.

“They love being outdoors,” added Christine Ross Cunha, one of the two third-grade teachers from Great Valley who accompanied their students to the School Farm.

Like any adventurous and curious youngster, her students very much enjoyed the many “hands-on stuff” among the educational displays, as well as climbing up the tractors, she said. But topping off their group’s AgVenture for the day was actually watching the female turkey lay an egg while they were visiting the animal display that included peacocks, turkeys, and a llama.

The AgVenture experience also served as an opportunity for the students enrolled in the Industrial Technology and Fabrication School of Manteca Unified Vocational Academy to show off some of the skills that they are learning in the class. Colten Thomas demonstrated how to operate a plasma cutter, while Larissa Castillo showed how to use a grinder in the welding booth. Their project was a steel table decor with the words AgVenture 2013 stencilled on the oval metal which were given away as souvenirs to the schools that participated.

The four-hour field trip - the first bus-full of students arrived at 9 a.m. with the last one leaving around 1 p.m. - was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, thanks in large part to the help of the many parent volunteers, noted Ross Cunha.

“We couldn’t do it without the parents’ help. They’re so efficient,” she said.

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