Jordan District’s seventh-graders discover career agricultural opportunitiesFeb 03, 2023 11:26AM ● By Julie Slama
Horticulturalist Crystal Trentelman shared with students about plant breeding at Jordan School District’s annual agriculture day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
At the Salt Lake County fairgrounds, there were animals — alpacas, goats, birds, wild horses; fruits and vegetables — apples, peaches, pumpkins; as well as animal skeletons, tractors, flowers, water experiments, healthy-eating diagrams and more.
It was Jordan School District’s sixth annual agriculture day. More than 4,800 seventh-grade students from all the district’s middle schools, including its virtual middle school, learned from 56 different organizations about agriculture, said Shauna West, Jordan School District’s career and technical education assistant.
“Seventh-graders in the state are required to take a college and career awareness class, with 17 of those days being devoted to agriculture,” she said. “We decided to hold this event to help our teachers educate seventh-graders about all aspects of agriculture.”
The broad spectrum showed sheep shearing to drone use in agriculture. Students learned about things ranging from the price of machinery that gets wheat onto a dining room table to the importance of good nutrition.
“We’re hoping students learned the important part that agriculture plays in their everyday life, that their bread does not come from the shelf, their milk does not come from the refrigerator. We wanted to give them an opportunity to see and smell and feel what it’s all about, to get that hands-on experience,” West said.
She said teachers prepared students beforehand and about 120 Future Farmers of America and science high school students set up for the day as well as escorted student groups in rotations and answered their questions.
Elk Ridge career and technical education teacher Steven Asp was overseeing two groups of his students through the rotations.
“I want my students to become aware of all the different career clusters, and agriculture is a big one,” he said. “I love that students are getting exposed to where food comes first-hand from people in the industry to having the opportunity to learn about clubs and careers in high school and college. This is much more interactive than a discussion and I love that we’re getting out of the classroom to experience it.”
Elk Ridge seventh-grader Ola Hamadi was excited to see the sheep and to learn about them. She and classmate Emery Ross just learned that they needed to have plenty of vegetables and protein to eat healthy.
They had listened to Jordan School District nutrition coordinators Lisa Totorica and Jodie Bowles.
“We taught them about the five groups of food on ‘My Plate,’” Totorica said.
Bowles said that not all the students were aware that Jordan School District offers students breakfast with fresh bread every morning.
“We talked to them about some of their favorites – chicken sandwiches and spicy orange chicken – and they were able to understand the nutrition of the meals,” she said. “It’s amazing how smart they are.”
Students rotated to learn that alpacas, the shortest member of the camel family, have an average lifespan of 22 years, and then to learning about aviation technology in agriculture for a college class choice. They also learned about wild mustangs in nearby Butterfield Canyon and how a high school student adopts and trains horses, and how she rides them now to compete for prizes.
Horticulturalist Crystal Trentelman shared with students her knowledge and love of plants and answered their questions, such as why her strawberry plant has pink flowers instead of white.
“I’m a Utah State student, but I also work for Progressive Plants and in both cases, I really like to be involved in the plant community and share with anyone interested about plant education,” she said. “I talked a lot about plant breeding, working on different genetics to make those things happen. The kids were really asking some intelligent questions. I just am so jealous of these guys getting to learn about these options while they’re young.”
Elk Ridge seventh-grader Amalia Vallejo appreciated learning from Trentelman that working with plants is a peaceful career and one which also can focus on need and beauty with plants’ different colors. She also liked learning about the different programs available at Utah State University.
West Jordan Middle School student Naomi Fisutalia Hamilton said through her rotations, she learned that most breads are made from part whole wheat flour and part white and can share that with her family.
West Jordan science teacher Allyson Jellito said she can tie what they learned into her class discussion.
“I really like the pods with ducks, chickens and horses and dogs since they’re learning about the diversity of life,” she said. “We can use those to determine what is living, what isn’t living, and particularly how to care for living things themselves. I’m going to bring this back to my class to implement.”
Parent Dan Hastings was escorting a group of seventh-grade students.
“It’s cool that these students are exposed to as much as possible here,” he said, remembering he helped farm and ride horses where the district offices now stand. “There are so many more choices in agriculture today.”