Hands-on, Interactive Experiences at AgVentures! Learning Center
Jun 28, 2018 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
Farm and Field
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos Courtesy of Adventures! Learning Center
EACH YEAR as winter turns to spring, farmers, dignitaries and politicians from around the world descend upon little ol’ Tulare, California, for the World Ag Expo at the International Agri-Center. For those in the agriculture industry, not to mention those who work in hospitality, retail and service, it’s impossible to miss when the World Ag Expo comes to town. But even though the expo grabs much of the limelight, there’s another reason to visit the International Agri-Center. Just ask the thousands of students who visit each year.
AgVentures! Learning Center offers tours and field trips that encourage students – or anyone, really – to come learn about agriculture through hands-on, interactive experiences.
“Our mission statement as a nonprofit is to educate the world about agriculture,” says Kerissa Chapman, the ag education manager at the International Agri-Center. And that’s no small task, considering the scope and importance of agriculture here in the Central Valley.
According to Chapman, the interactive exhibits are educational for all people who want to learn about agriculture, but “we really focus a lot on our school tours, specifically geared toward first, second and third grades.”
Tours usually begin with a movie that depicts life on a dairy farm, specifically in Tulare, followed by a demonstration planting sunflowers.
“We talk about soil, and watering, and sun, and air: all the things a plant needs to grow,” says Chapman. “And they get to take home seeds as well.”
Also inside AgVentures! are areas with hands-on exhibits, says Chapman. “We have our very own dairy area where students have the opportunity with a fiberglass cow to see what it’s like to get milk. We also have an irrigation station that shows how to water crops in different seasons, a puzzle area that talks about good bugs and bad bugs, and an area that talks about how much water your food takes.”
AgVentures! also includes an exhibit that shows how to harvest cotton and what kind of products it makes. And a big hit with kids is a mini tractor exhibit that allows tour-goers to sit inside a tractor and play a virtual game.
“After we’ve completed the movie, a scavenger hunt and planted the sunflower seeds, then we take a step back in time and tour our antique tractor museum, and that’s where we really learn about the history of agriculture,” continues Chapman.
The Antique Farm Equipment Museum is really where tour-goers can see the historical arc of agriculture here in the Central Valley, and how technology has transformed the industry.
“We probably have more than 40 tractors at our museum right now, from the early 1900s to a current 2011 tractor. We like to have the difference to show the kids how things worked back then compared with nowadays,” Chapman says about the rotating exhibit. “Some might stay for a few years then move on to a different museum.”
The museum predominantly features tractors, but it includes other agriculture equipment like trucks and crop dusters.
As expressed in the mission statement, the goal of AgVentures! is to educate, and Chapman says a surprisingly large number of students aren’t aware of the importance of agriculture.
“Unfortunately, even in the Central Valley, a lot of students really don’t know where their food is coming from,” says Chapman. “We watch the dairy movie and we’ll ask where milk comes from, but there are still students and people of all ages that says it comes from the grocery store, and don’t know that it originates from the cow directly. Giving them the opportunity to know where their food, their clothes are coming from – through the tour they really get to grasp the concept.”
And that’s the payoff.
“Seeing their eyes open when they walk in the museum and see the large tractors, or get the opportunity to step into a tractor – a lot of people don’t have that opportunity ever. Then to hear kids says it’s the best field trip they’ve ever been on is just one of the best experiences for me,” says Chapman.
AgVentures! accommodates most tours, though the optimal size is 50-60 students. Cost is $3 per student and $5 for adults. School tours typically run in the mornings and the museum closes to the public during these tours, so Chapman recommends calling before your visit to make sure it doesn’t coincide with a school tour. •
AgVentures! Learning Center
4500 South Laspina Street, Tulare
(559) 688-1030 • Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm
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