Growing minds: Agriculture Museum programs to expand

January 17, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

The minds of students from Santa Paula, Fillmore and Ventura are growing through an ever-expanding series of educational programs offered through the Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum.

The program started in September under the direction of Museum Education Coordinator Anne Thille, an educator and nutritionist. 

Thille, a resident of Ventura, was the featured speaker at the Santa Paula Rotary Club and introduced by Dr. Paul Chounet, a Santa Paula Unified School District administrator.

The program is designed to provide elementary students with hands-on experience and learning about horticulture and nutrition.

And Thille said one of her goals is ensuring such programs also feature, “Having fun while being interactive and hands-on.”

Students cycle through the museum’s interactive work stations every 20 minutes and “We like to have kids know about all the components of agriculture,” from seed to field to fork. 

“We want to help educate children about everything that has to do with where their food comes from, how important agriculture is in Ventura County and the role it plays,” even while at the same time they are admiring the wide tractor collection and other equipment on permanent display. 

Thille is awaiting the completion of an interactive demonstration garden-Future Farmers of America interns helped with the construction-where children will take a greater interest because they will be able to “Grow, feel and taste,” what the garden produces. 

And how it is harvested: Thille said telling the students of the hard work of farmworkers can also provide a mathematics lesson such as how many avocados typically fill a bag and how many will fill a bin.

“Another great thing is we’ll have the kids pick vegetables and eat them...and they do eat them because they plant and grow them,” creating a bond that has great nutritional value. 

The museums famed glass-sided beehive-set in a wall so it’s visible both inside and outside the museum-has been declining, a result of mites now plaguing hives, but Thille said is it expected to recover.

Nevertheless, the hive still offers tastes of fresh honey, “And the kids love that too...”   

Teaching the children how their food “Connects back, not just to the store but to the farmer,” is also a way to highlight Ventura County’s strong agriculture industry. 

“They see how lucky we are to be surrounded by ag,” said Thille. 

Students use props and costume accessories as a way to learn the “Real names of the parts of the plant or flower,” and the beehive is a good way to stress the importance of pollination to agriculture, “More important,” said Thille, “than the honey...” 

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