PIQUA — Approximately 270 fifth graders from Piqua Central Intermediate School were transported by bus to Lost Creek Reserve on Friday, where they participated in “Hartzell Farm Day,” an annual event hosted by the Miami County Park District.
The event, now its 22nd year, was made possible through a partnership between Hartzell Propeller and the Piqua City School district.
“The partnership has been in place since late 1996,” said event founder Rich Hess, who is on the partnership committee at Hartzell. “The late Jim Brown was the chairman of the board at Hartzell Propeller, and he founded this with the staff at South Street School. We thought the kids having some mentors and having strong adult presences in their life would enhance their life and make them more well-rounded people.”
Breaking off into groups, fifth graders at Farm Day traveled through nine different stations, each featuring hands-on activities or demonstrations. Station activities included corn milling and uses, popcorn making and bobbing for apples, a honey bee presentation, earthball/solar system activities, bouncy ball making, garden harvesting, farm animal activities, native wildlife presentations, and a hayride through the reserve.
The first Farm Day took place in 1997, and was hosted on Hess’ own property.
“When we started, we had it at my farm,” Hess said. “When we partnered up with the whole fifth grade class, it went from 80 or 90 kids to almost 300. That got to be a little too much. We partnered up with the park district and they were very generous and helpful. It’s a nice open space here, and I think it’s a great use of our tax dollars. We’re very thankful the park district works with us, and that Hartzell continues to provide this opportunity.”
“I think it’s a great thing for the district to host,” said Susan Condy, school education coordinator with the Miami County Park District. “It’s an amazing partnership. What Hartzell does for these fifth graders is amazing. They put on this event so kids understand where their food comes from and how farms impact their lives.
“I think it can even help them with connections in the classroom when they’re dealing with other subjects, just in giving them a sense of groundedness on how things in the world work. Hartzell brings a lot of their own stuff and volunteers, so it’s an easy event to host.”
“The whole goal of our partnership with the school district is to give the kids experiences that they wouldn’t have in the classroom,” said partnership committee chairman Jennifer Hughes. “With so much of the curriculum going toward testing and understanding things like math and science, we think it’s also important that kids get life experiences in their education. Probably 30 to 40 percent of the kids that come don’t know what a carrot looks like when you pull it out of the ground. Giving these kids a learning experience they may not get in the classroom makes this partnership very important.”
“Any chance we can, we try to match up with the school’s curriculum,” Hess said. “A lot of these children don’t often have exposure to things like this. Many of them never get to touch a farm animal. It gets their minds working, and they see all these adults out here showing an interest in their welfare, and it really effects their psyche in a good way.”