Science education comes to life when students step out of the classroom and into the real world. Recently, Nooksack Valley High School took a bold leap into hands-on learning by organizing a science field trip to a local family pig farm, Alluvial Farms. In the photo below, students practice map reading with farmer Katie on a large version of our conservation management plan map from the Whatcom Conservation District.
On Monday October 23, 2023 teachers Rhonda Juergens and Allison Mitchell brought around 150 of their science students from Nooksack Valley High School to Alluvial Farms. This was made possible in part by a new Agriculture Education program at Cloud Mountain Farm Center, which is helping increase connections between Whatcom county family farms and rural Whatcom High Schools.
This trip in particular involved three groups of 50 students for an hour and a half each, rotating through four engaging stations where they had the opportunity to test soil types, measure slope, learn about stream restoration, and, of course, interact with the farm's residents – the pigs and the farmers. In this blog post, we'll take you through this fascinating journey that blended science, agriculture, and fun.
As the students arrived at the farm, they were greeted by Alluvial farmers Katie, Matthew, and Curtis, as well as farmer Blanca Castillo, Agriculture Education Manager from Cloud Mountain Farm Center. At the soil stations students learned first hand from farmers the importance of soil types in agriculture. Having practiced doing soil texture tests by feel already in class, the students got their hands dirty (literally) and learned how to identify different soil types – clay, sand, and loam. They quickly realized the critical role soil plays in crop cultivation, water retention, and plant health.
At each soil station the farmers introduced to the concept of slope and its impact on farming. Using simple tools like inclinometers and measuring tapes, the students measured the slope of various areas on the farm. They learned how slope affects water drainage, erosion control, and the layout of fields. This station showcased how science intersects with agriculture, making it a perfect example of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in action.
Stream Restoration on Farms
One of the most eye-opening aspects of the field trip was the station focused on stream restoration. In the (fairly blurry) photo below farmer Blanca explains the importance of maintaining healthy streams on agricultural lands. Students learned how streams can be protected from pollution and erosion through techniques like planting buffer zones, controlling livestock access to water, and restoring natural meanders. This station highlighted the Alluvial Farms' commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices.
Visiting with the Pigs
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the chance to interact with the farm's adorable residents – the pigs. Students observed these intelligent creatures, learned about their care and feeding, and even had the opportunity to pet and feed them. This hands-on experience left a lasting impression on the students, connecting them with the animals that play a vital role in the farm's ecosystem.
Nooksack Valley High School's science field trip to Alluvial Farms was a resounding success, bringing science and agriculture together in a meaningful and engaging way. The students left with a newfound appreciation for the hard work of farmers, the intricacies of soil and slope, and the importance of protecting the environment while pursuing agriculture. It was a day of learning, laughter, and, above all, inspiration.
In the photo below: farmer Matthew and a group of students during the field trip.
This field trip demonstrated the power of experiential learning and how it can ignite a passion for science and the natural world. We hope that more schools follow in the footsteps of Nooksack Valley High School, recognizing the value of hands-on experiences in education. By doing so, we can inspire the next generation to be stewards of our land, embracing science and sustainable agriculture for a better future. In the photo below: farmer Curtis and a group of students at a soil testing station.