Plants, Bugs, and Soils
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Cultivate Teens explore Crop Science

This fall, 35 high-school students from across the state spent a weekend studying the field of Crop Science at N.C. State University’s

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The teens participated in engaging
workshops presented by Crop Science faculty members and undergraduates in the
classrooms, labs, greenhouses and field facilities – including the Bill Fike
Agronomy Teaching Garden, the Lonnie Poole Golf Course and the Agroecology
Education Farm. The inaugural Cultivate Crop Science Weekend was supported by a
University Extension and Engagement Seed grant and was co-sponsored by the CALS
department of Crop Science and North Carolina 4-H, the youth development
program of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Held October 24-26th, the camp began on Friday evening with
a local foods meal that celebrated agriculture and a keynote talk from Dr. Jeff
Mullahey, along with welcomes from Liz Driscoll and Dr. Lori Snyder-Unruh, all
of the CALS Crop Science Department. Saturday morning brought a warm and
meaningful opening to local and global implications of North Carolina
Agriculture by the beloved Dr. Bob Patterson.
The rest of the morning was spent with students attending “classes” including sessions facilitated by
Dr. Jim Holland, sharing breeding secrets and strategies for corn, Dr. Randy
Weisz making dough from small grains grown in NC, Dr. David Jordan asking
students to define integrated pest management and Dr. Keith Edmisten unlocking
the ideas behind plant biotechnology.

With a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, the students were
able to explore campus, completing scavenger hunt objectives and getting a feel
for what it would be like to attend college and the favorite places and spaces
that students enjoy. A trip to the
Agroecology Education Farm, and a tour by Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno to
investigate the integrated systems on the farm finished the afternoon. Sunday
morning found the students in the Sustainable Landscapes classroom in the
beautiful Lonnie Poole Clubhouse. Graduate student, Derek Washburn, under the
advising of Dr. Danesha Carley, led the students in hypothesizing about the
water quality on the golf course and had the students use research instruments
to prove the measures the golf course has implemented keeping the aquatic
ecosystem healthy. The last field visit to the Bill Fike Garden allowed
students to assess soil properties, wander through a corn maze and closely
examine different kinds of cotton, soybeans, and other important NC crops.

Cultivate started as an acryonym: “Crop Science
Undergraduate Leaders Teaching, Innovating, Valuing Agriculture Through Education,”
with the idea to cultivate both emerging crop science leaders and have them
provide mentoring and support to the teenage students. Two Crop Science majors taught interactive
lessons, with Katelyn XX, a crop biotechnology student demonstrating how to
extract DNA from plants and Tracy Grubb, an agroecology minor, orchestrating
the students to act out the nitrogen cycle. Other undergraduates will maintain
a connection with participants by sending along crop science DIY activities.
Carla Cave, a Crop Science master’s student helped coordinate the weekend and
served as a counselor as well as two students from Agronomy club. Dr. Lori
Snyder-Unruh, undergraduate program coordinator for the Department of Crop
Science gave the students a quiz to best determine their interest and fit for a
major in Crop Science.

“This was our first year for this program, and I think that
students left with an appreciation of the scope of the Crop Science Department,
an opportunity to consider their future careers and a good time meeting other
young people interested in the same thing. In short, we had a good time, great
presenters and amazing field trips,” said Driscoll. The Department plans to continue offering an
annual program, changing workshops each year to provide the chance for students
to return again and again.

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The Cultivate 2014 group at Lonnie Poole Golf Course Dr. JIm Holland sharing corn breeding secrets Examining a corn breeding line Making dough with small grains. Wheat=Gluten! Dr. Snyder showing students cotton at the Bill Fike Teaching Garden Cultivate students exploring soil texture in the soil pit Visiting the Bill Fike Teaching Garden Observing North Carolina crops! Ready to venture into the Corn Ma(i)ze! Dr. Patterson welcoming students to the world of agronomy. We <3 plant breeding! Illustrating basic IPM concepts.

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