Inside the ARECS: Southern Piedmont AREC

Insights SPAREC

Kids learned about baking and how wheat is turned into flour during Agricultural Awareness Days at SPAREC. Other activities included extracting DNA from strawberries and learning about the importance of soil health for growing food.

The Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s mission is to serve the university, the agricultural industry, and the citizens of the commonwealth through research endeavors and a high quality Extension program. Research programs at the center focus on tobacco production, forage, and small fruit production such as wine grapes and strawberries.

Recently the center opened its doors in order to engage the community through programming geared towards fifth graders by hosting  Agricultural Awareness Days from April 21 -23. The event exposed fifth graders to STEM education through activities like baking and gardening.

King Arthur Flour returned for the fifth consecutive year in 2015 to head up the baking day where kids not only learned about the bread baking process, but also developed math, science, reading and planning skills; engaged the creative side of their brains; and learned about wheat production and how wheat becomes flour. At the end of the day students keep one loaf and work with the Southside Gleaning Network to donate the other loaves to different organizations that distribute bread to families in need in each county. The event has been so successful that the SPAREC workshop has become the template for how King Arthur Flour conducts their baking demonstration programs in schools across the country.

The flour company’s outreach activities are part of the King Arthur Flour Bake for Good, Kids Learn, Bake, Share program.  During the program each baker-in-training takes home materials to make two loaves of bread, provided by King Arthur Flour, and the know-how to bake on his or her own.

Virginia Cooperative Extension also conducted hands-on, inquiry-based learning modules. Students built an animal cell, extracted DNA from strawberries, learned about molecules and polymers by playing with “Oobleck,” and learned about the Earth’s resources by dissecting an apple.

Students from all public and several private schools in Nottoway, Brunswick, Lunenburg, Amelia, and Dinwiddie counties participated this year. One thousand fifteen students participated in 2014 and 1,009 students participated in 2015.

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