Programs & Class Trips
The Ag Learning Center offers a variety of unique and engaging hands-on agricultural learning opportunities for students and teachers both in the classroom and on-location at the Sussex County Fairgrounds facilities. For information contact Kathy Cafasso, Program Director at email@example.com.
The AG Bag Program
The Ag Bags are offered as a free service from the AG Learning Center to help educators infuse agriculture into a regular curriculum using literature and concept support materials. They were developed by former teachers with experience in PreK-gr. 5.
Bags include hard and softcover books [primarily non-fiction], sample materials, and other materials as needed. A notebook is included with various projects/lessons/activities that address science, social studies, language arts, art, etc. We deliver and pick up, and teachers may use the materials for two weeks. Topics include:
- Berries/Blueberries for Sal
- Christmas Tree Farms
- Ecology, Energy & Individual Responsibility
- Gardens and Plants
- George Washington Carver
- Maple Trees
- Plants: Vegetables & Fruits
Borrow Box Program
Borrow equipment for your classroom to make ice cream, vegetable soup, popcorn, applesauce, etc., or hatch chicks. Click here to view the Borrow Box Catalog
All programs can be adjusted to fit your time constraints. The learning experiences described below offer age-appropriate information and activities. They were designed by elementary-level educators. Each program is about two hours long. Staff can work with you to personalize a visit. Admission is low; adults are free. There is a limited number of parents allowed to accompany the students. Classes may bring a snack and or lunch as part of their visits. Bathroom facilities are located a short walk away.
For more information, or to make a reservation, contact Program Director Kathy Cafasso.
Fourth Grade - 'Agriculture Time Machine' (October/early November) - Currently not available for Fall 2023
This program has been developed for fourth-grade students and runs 2-2 ½ hours. It is located in the Snook Agricultural Museum and the Shotwell 4-H Building in the Agricultural Area of the Fairgrounds. The program consists of a look at agriculture in the past and present in Sussex County and New Jersey and supplements the study of the history of New Jersey. Students visit six stations.
Agriculture Past [Snook Agricultural Museum]
- 1905 kitchen—modern labor-saving devices of the day compared to current day, jobs & responsibilities of family members, Hands-on: making butter & eating it
- Farm Equipment—machinery for milking/threshing/harvesting, hand tools, Hands-on: shelling & grinding corn
- Forage—uses of hay and straw, water consumption of dairy cows, how corn grown for animals is used, Hands-on: the game Needle in the Haystack
Agriculture Present [Shotwell 4-H Building]—hands-on investigations
- Sunflowers—reasons for growing sunflowers, kinds of sunflower seeds, investigation of sunflower heads, predicting, measuring, making connections
- Chickens—raising chickens, kinds of chickens, diagram of an egg, sizes of eggs, measuring eggs, math comparing chickens with people
- Dairy Cows—kinds of dairy cows, comparing cows' teeth with people's teeth, the use of magnets in cows' stomachs, the compartments in a cow's stomach, milk production by state, drawing conclusions
Primary Grades — 'The Plant Program' (March/April, $3 per student)
This program highlights plants. It is suitable for grades 1-3. There are 6 stations for each grade level. Some topics progress through more than one grade level. The programs run for about hours [snack/lunch may be added.] The program can run without parent volunteers, but a maximum of 6 per visit is allowed.
Grade 1: Water [water to land ratio on Earth], Seed Dispersal [how do seeds move] What's in a Seed [look at the inside of seeds], What do Plants Need [what is necessary for plants to grow], Tops & Bottoms [which part do we eat], Flower Garden [plant flowers to take home]
Grade 2: Pollinators [what is the job of pollinators], Worms [facts about worms, handling worms], Soil Not Dirt [difference between the two, how soil is made] Germination [make a germinator to take home and observe], What Part Do We Eat?[ identifying vegetables as plant parts], Water [how much fresh water is on earth/recycling]
Grade 3: Trees [size, kinds, food grown], Pizza Garden [take home garden of tomatoes, basil, oregano], Pollinators at Work [matching pollinators to plants], Hydroponic Gardens [growing with water], Bulbs [howt hey differ from seeds, cross sections, kinds], Bees [Bee Free BBQ- no bees, no food]
Pre-K/Kindergarten - 'Down on the Farm' (May/June $3 per student)
This program has been developed for kindergarten and Pre-K students. Located in the agriculture area of the fairgrounds, the program consists of hands-on activities for children at 8 interactive stations. Parent volunteers [maximum of 12, adjustment for larger groups] assemble at the fairgrounds 30 minutes before students' arrival and are briefed by staff on the operation of the stations to which they have been assigned. Stations reflect farm life in the past and present and have specific content.
Stations run by staff members assisted by parents:
- Dairy—identifying dairy products, how are cows milked, how is butter made, milking our "cow" by hand, how ice cream is made
- Planting—identifying what plants need to grow, specific seeds grow specific plants, seeds come in different sizes, plant your own vegetable to take home
- Horses—the job of horses on the farm in the past, present jobs of horses, use of horseshoes, playing horseshoes, taking a stick horse ride through a course
- Fruits/Veggies—identifying fruits and vegetables, locating where they are grown
- Apples/Eggs—seasons of an apple tree, kinds and colors of eggs, collecting & measuring eggs, gathering apples and eggs from "apple trees" and "nests" with the appropriate number and color assigned
Stations run by parent volunteers:
- Tractors—the job of tractors on the farm, riding pedal tractors, using small tractors in a sandbox
- Laundry—how laundry was done before the advent of machinery- handwashing and clothesline drying, sorting socks & buttons, beating rugs
- Scarecrows—the importance of scarecrows in a garden, making scarecrows, gathering 'corn' from the cornfield
In School Programs
The Learning Center has a variety of programs for your classroom. Each program is under an hour and includes a hands-on activity and often a book. Presentations are done in individual homerooms and are free of charge. Several classrooms can be visited in a day. Presentations can be constructed specifically for your class needs. Program bookings run from September to March. Spring months are taken up by programs on the grounds but there may be some dates available from April to June.
Programs can also be developed on an agricultural topic of your request. Current topics are:
'PETER RABBIT' - Kindergarten
Students are introduced to the book Peter Rabbit along with background on the author Beatrix Potter. Vocabulary such as hoe, chamomile, currant buns, and wheelbarrow will be introduced. Students will design and color coats for Peter.
'SUNFLOWERS' - Grades 1-3
This presentation charts the life cycle of a sunflower and reinforces the concept of the cycle. It introduces sunflower seeds as a crop and their uses. The book Sunflower House reinforces the concept of the life cycle. The culminating activity for students is the opportunity to plant their own sunflowers—a variety of colors is offered.
‘LIFECYCLE OF A BUTTERFLY’- Grades 1-3
The book A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston will expose students to different kinds of butterflies and facts about them. The stages of a butterfly’s growth, from egg to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly, will be discussed with illustrations. Students will create a lifecycle on a paper plate using beans and pasta for each step in a butterfly’s growth.
'CRANBERRIES' - Grades 2-4
This presentation introduces cranberries as a truly American plant, showing its uses by native Americans. It touches on states and NJ counties where cranberries are grown. Different harvesting methods and machinery are highlighted. Ways of testing for ripe cranberries are demonstrated. Tastings of fresh and dried cranberries are offered.
'NATIVE AMERICAN AGRICULTURE' - Grades 2-4
This presentation addresses the three ways in which Native Americans got their food- gathering, fishing, and planting. Companion planting- where some crops do better in the company of other plants- is introduced with the Three Sisters Garden. Corn, beans, and squash all contribute to the growth and development of each other.
'FIBERS' - Grades 2-4
The role of cotton and wool in providing clothing in the past and present are covered in this presentation. Students will be introduced to the steps from raw materials to finished yarn/thread. Wool and cotton fibers differ and provide different advantages to the fabric made from them. Students will have the opportunity to touch products made from both to compare and contrast. A picture book will be used to introduce some concepts.
‘MAPLE’- Grades 2-4
The growth of a maple tree including the dispersal of its seeds will be introduced. The steps to making syrup and its historical background will be covered. A tasting of different grades of syrup can be done with comparisons.
'CREATING CHRISTMAS TREES' - Grades 2-5
Christmas trees do not naturally occur in perfect shapes for decorating. Working on a Christmas tree farm can be labor intensive. Students will learn about the year-long work that has to be done. They will also learn about the different kinds of evergreens/conifers. The book Christmas Tree Farm by Mary Lyn Ray may be used.
‘CORN’- Grades 2-5
In this presentation, students will learn about the history of corn in the United States- its cultivation by native Americans and colonists and its uses in their lives. Also covered will be kinds of corn, including the work of Luther Hill, NJ botanist. Students will make their own corn germination project.
‘GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER ‘- Grades 3-5
George Washington Carver’s journey from slave to professor and plant doctor will be discussed. The development of his many products from peanuts and sweet potatoes was spurred by the improvement of the soil depleted by planting cotton.
‘POLLINATORS’- Grades 3-5
This presentation will discuss pollinators in their many forms- bats, bees, butterflies, moths, etc. The job of a pollinator and what they need to accomplish that job will be outlined. The second half of the presentation will be a STEM activity with students creating their own pollinators from a variety of materials to show their understanding of what a pollinator does.
'GEORGE WASHINGTON, FARMER' - Grades 4-5
This presentation highlights Washington's lifelong work as a farmer at Mt. Vernon—his favorite job. It demonstrates his hands-on approach to increasing the yield of his crops and breeding of his animals along with quotes from his correspondence concerning his agricultural pursuits. It shines a new light on our first president.