MTSU students help youngsters discover life on a f...

MTSU students help youngsters discover life on a farm at Ag Education Spring Fling [+VIDEO]

Standing outside a back entrance, you could hear the buzz of little voices coming from inside the MTSU Tennessee Livestock Center.

It was about 300 children — the first of three waves of youngsters to come April 17 for the fourth annual Ag Education Spring Fling— visiting various agriculture-related stations during their two-hour visit to learn about life on a farm.

Teaching students about honey bees

MTSU student Rachel Elrod, left, a beekeeper at MTSU and junior agribusiness major, teaches Blackman Elementary students about bees. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

They saw horses, pigs, a cow, ducks and other animals; learned about honey bees, soil, and where food comes from; could walk or run through a straw maze, play cornhole, make a Holstein dairy cow puppet craft and learn about how fruits and vegetables are grown. Some even brought a sack lunch.

More than 900 elementary-age children from Christiana, Campus School, Thurman Francis, Blackman and Smyrna schools, plus teachers, parents and more than 80 combined MTSU agritourism class and agriculture students, kept things hopping in the livestock center.

“Our students will get as much out of this as these children will,” said Alanna Vaught, a School of Agribusiness and Agriscience instructor who oversaw her fourth agritourism class-led Ag Ed Spring Fling.

“It’s very important to educate children about agriculture. Without agriculture, there would be no food and no farms.”

Thomas King, 7, a Christiana Elementary School first-grader, was a fast learner.

“I milked a cow and picked different (plastic) vegetables and fruits,” he said. “I learned that farming’s not about being easy.”

Teaching about soil conservation

Blackman Elementary students learn from Heather Brunk, standing center right, an MTSU alumna and district technician for the Rutherford County Soil Conservation District, about what can be found in our soil. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Camden Campbell, 5, a kindergarten readiness Blackman Elementary student, enjoyed cornhole, made a puppet and played in the playground.

“It was 100 percent fun,” Campbell said. “I was excited about seeing animals. I want to pet a scorpion.”

While there were other animals, there thankfully was no scorpion sighting for youngsters still learning about the animal kingdom.

Junior agribusiness major Rachel Elrod, wearing a pink beekeeper suit, said one child told her, “I didn’t know girls could be beekeepers.”

Elrod said her most-asked questions from children were “Can they sting you through your suit, and does it hurt when they sting?”

MTSU alumna Heather Brunk, a district technician with the Rutherford County Soil Conservation District, escorted the youngsters through a plastic tunnel.

“We tell them we’re here to conserve our natural resources, soil and water,” she said.

Milking a cow on a demonstration cow

Blackman Elementary students practice milking on a demonstration cow April 17 during the fourth annual Ag Education Spring Fling in the Tennessee Livestock Center. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Rebekah Brown, a junior agribusiness major who has worked for the Rutherford Farmers Co-Op for two years, oversaw a station showing “what farmers can get at the co-op.” Other nearby stations informed students about cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans and featured products people purchase in stores.

Vaught’s agritourism class also presents a special Christmas season event for children. To learn more about agritourism, agriscience and agribusiness, call 615-898-2523.

MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. The School of Agribusiness and Agriscience is one of 11 College of Basic and Applied Sciences departments.

— Randy Weiler (

Learning about a garden, fruits and vegetables

Blackman Elementary School students prepare to enter the interactive garden area after learning about dairy cows from MTSU’s Jessica Lance, a graduate student in the ag education leadership concentration. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Educating children about tractors on a farm

Local farmer Phillip Vaught teaches Katyra Martin’s class of Blackman Elementary kindergarten students about tractors. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)