Morris FFA members take ag message to town

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -Using an exploding cheeseburger, Morris Area FFA members illustrated the connection between food and agriculture production to two Minneapolis elementary schools last week.

Morris FFA members take ag message to town
Morris Area FFA member Kelly Mahoney guided three students at Northrop Urban Environmental School through an "Ag in the Classroom" worksheet.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -Using an exploding cheeseburger, Morris Area FFA members illustrated the connection between food and agriculture production to two Minneapolis elementary schools last week.

Actually, there was no physical cheeseburger nor did anything explode. The FFA members used a worksheet activity linking the cheeseburger's parts to different raw agricultural products. The lesson, taken from National FFA's Food for America program, resonated with students at Northrop Urban Environmental School and the Wenonah Campus of Lake Nokomis Community School.

Chapter advisor Natasha Mortenson has long had the idea for an Ag in the Classroom visit to the Twin Cities but lacked the funding to make it a reality. Her former student now Morris farmer David Larson said it was an area where he could help. He contacted Stevens County commodity groups and raised the funds to purchase supplies and to cover the trip's costs.

Under Mortenson's guidance, a four-member student team took the lead for the program. Senior Lauren Kill was a mastermind developing a booklet of worksheets and ag information and creating a script the FFA'ers used in their classroom presentations.

Helping Kill were fellow senior and Region III FFA president Jeff Knobloch and juniors Sami Searles and Amanda Moser.


The 36 Morris Area FFA'ers making the trip were divided into nine groups of four to deliver the program in multiple classrooms, Kill said. Each was comfortable giving the presentations. They'd done it before in Morris through the chapter's Pals program. FFA members visit Morris Area elementary classes from grades kindergarten to second grade. The once a month visits focus on agriculture and food.

For their Minneapolis trip, the students added similar ag messages for third to fifth graders, she said.

The students developed their own "Ag in the Classroom" booklets featuring worksheets and ag information including the "exploding cheeseburger." They took information from the Internet, commodity groups and Ag in the Classroom programs in Minnesota and Oklahoma, to develop the booklet, Kill said.

FFA members were asked to bring empty food cartons for the project. Students used the ingredient label to show how ag products make their favorite cereals, packaged meals or treats possible.

They started planning for the event in earnest after the Minnesota FFA convention in April.

"Looking back at the past month, we went from thinking this might be something we could to seeing how it will actually work," Kill said. "We knew this would be really cool in the future to see more people become involved in this effort with us."

Following the school visits, Kill and others said they were pleasantly surprised to see so many students make the connection between their food and ag production. Students knew wheat was an ingredient in a hamburger bun and that hamburger comes from cows and bacon from pigs.

A special part of their visit was seeing farm animals. When the chapter realized it would be difficult to get Twin Cities area livestock to the sites, Knobloch volunteered to drive the stock trailer with farm animals to the schools. Makeshift pens were made using metal gates. The students had a close up view of a dairy calf, sheep, beef animal, baby goat and rabbit.


One student pointed to the cow and called it a moose. The school's principal corrected the mistake informing her it was a cow.

"She's from China," the principal explained. "She's never seen a cow in person."

Sami Searles called it an eye-opening experience.

"It's really rewarding," she said.

Kill was also pleased with the presentations.

"I think we made an impression," she said. "It wasn't what I expected but I certainly wasn't disappointed. Some of the students knew more about the ag connection to their food than I thought. This experienced reached the goals I set for our visit. It was great."

The recent Morris Area School graduate is turning over her work on the Ag in the Classroom to others in the chapter. Next year she'll be attending South Dakota State University. But she established, with guidance from FFA advisor Natasha Mortenson, a firm foundation for the chapter's future classroom visits. It's something she hopes other chapters will join.

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