By: Ann Oswald, Mentoring Student
As I write this, I’m sitting in Lincoln, my home during the school year. The stockings are hung, the lights on the Christmas tree are glowing, and the house smells of cinnamon and pine. A sigh of relief escapes me as I realize this semester of school is finished. Being an Elementary Education major, my semester was filled with classes as well as practicum, which found me teaching in a fourth grade classroom in North Lincoln. What joys and challenges those students brought to my life! Were you aware of how difficult it is to teach long-division? Yeah, neither was I.
If you haven’t recently experienced the joy of being around children, let me give you a glimpse into their minds. The following came from Mr. Miller, a first-grade teacher in Columbus Ohio, who gave his students the first part of a well-known proverb and had them come up with the rest. I don’t have the time or space to share them all, but here are a few of my favorites:
Never underestimate the power of … termites.
Don’t bite the hand that … looks dirty.
A penny saved is … not much.
If at first you don’t succeed … get new batteries.
When the blind leadeth the blind … get out of the way.
Isn’t it exciting to imagine these and other youth around our nation making decisions and leading in the very near future?! Since we know that they will be holding jobs and making choices as consumers, we must strive to make sure they are educated so that they can make wise selections. Therefore, it is so very important that we teach them about agriculture and the pork industry. It is also vital that we do this at a young age so that they can make educated decisions as they grow and mature. Young children are also very vocal about telling their parents and anyone that they come into contact with about what they know. When armed with the correct information, youth are great vehicles for sharing the facts about pork production with their parents and peers.
Knowing the importance of youth, how can we go about sharing the story of pork production? For me, it’s talking about growing up on a farm to my students. It’s answering questions and debunking myths that students may have about how their pork is raised and made ready for their dinner table.
Are you interested in playing a key role in educating our youth? There are many resources available to help you in this journey. Two of these include Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom and your very own Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA). Ag in the Classroom currently offers two publications called ‘Pig Panorama’ and ‘A Peek at Pork,’ both of which are designed to share lessons about the food chain, pork products, food processing, and nutrition. They also carry a plethora of other ag-related materials. NPPA can provide you with resources, even people, to share about pork. Kyla and Jane are great ambassadors as they regularly do cooking demonstrations and speak at events like ‘Life on the Farm.’
Truthfully you, the reader, are ready to shape future minds right now. All you have to do is tell your own story about pork production. Volunteer to read a book about pork or agriculture to a local classroom. Tell the students how you raise your animals with the utmost care. Children want to learn and they very much enjoy hearing from the farmers who raise their food.
The sound of Christmas music drifting through the living room reminds me that while another semester of my schooling has come to an end, my job is not yet done. As a future educator, I am asking you to join me in this mission of educating our youth about the pork industry. The success of this mission is vital as with it we are sure to see the future of hog production grow in the years to come. Thank you for your dedication to our youth. May they bring as much joy to you as you do to their dinner table.