The Ag Learning Center offers a variety of unique and engaging hands-on agricultural learning opportunities for students and teachers both in the classroom and on-location at the Sussex County Fairgrounds facilities.
The AG Bag Program
The Ag Bags are offered as a free service from the AG Learning Center to help educators infuse agriculture into a regular curriculum using literature and concept support materials. They were developed by former teachers with experience in preK-gr. 5.
Bags include hard and softcover books [primarily non-fiction], sample materials and other materials as needed. A notebook is included with various projects/lessons/activities that address science, social studies, language arts, art, etc. We deliver and pick up, and teachers may use the materials for two weeks. Topics include:
Berries/Blueberries for Sal
Christmas Tree Farms
- Ecology, Energy & Individual Responsibility
Gardens and Plants
George Washington Carver
Plants: Vegetables & Fruits
Borrow Box Program
Borrow equipment for your classroom to make ice cream, vegetable soup, popcorn, applesauce, etc. or hatch chicks. Click here to view the Borrow Box Catalog
All programs can be adjusted to fit your time constraints. The learning experiences described below offer age appropriate information and activities, and were designed by elementary level educators. Each program is about two hours long. Staff can work with you to personalize a visit. Admission is low; adults are free. Classes may bring snack and or lunch as part of their visits. Bathroom facilities are located a short walk away.
For more information, or to make a reservation, contact Program Director Kathy Cafasso.
Fourth grade - 'Agriculture Time Machine' [October/early November]
This program has been developed for fourth grade students and runs 2-2 ½ hours. It is located in the Snook Agricultural Museum and the Shotwell 4-H Building in the Agricultural Area of the Fairgrounds. The program consists of a look at agriculture in the past and present in Sussex County and New Jersey and supplements the study of the history of New Jersey. Students visit six stations.
Agriculture Past [Snook Agricultural Museum]
1905 kitchen- modern labor saving devices of the day compared to current day, jobs & responsibilities of family members, Hands on: making butter & eating it
Farm Equipment- machinery for milking/threshing/harvesting, hand tools, Hands on: shelling & grinding corn
Forage- uses of hay and straw, water consumption of dairy cows, how corn grown for animals is used, Hands on: the game Needle in the Haystack
Agriculture Present [Shotwell 4-H Building]- hands on investigations
Sunflowers- reasons for growing sunflowers, kinds of sunflower seeds, investigation of sunflower heads, predicting, measuring, making connections
Chickens- raising chickens, kinds of chickens, diagram of an egg, sizes of eggs, measuring eggs, math comparing chickens with people
Dairy Cows- kinds of dairy cows, comparing cows' teeth with people's teeth, the use of magnets in cows' stomachs, the compartments in a cow's stomach, milk production by state, drawing conclusions
Primary grades - 'The Plant Program' [Early Spring]
This program highlights plants. It is suitable for grades 1-3. There are 6 stations for each grade level. Some topics progress through more than one grade level.
Grade 1: Water [water to land ratio on Earth], Seed Dispersal [how do seeds move] What's in a Seed [look at the inside of seeds], What do Plants Need [what is necessary for plants to grow], Tops & Bottoms [which part do we eat], Flower Garden [plant flowers to take home]
Grade 2: Pollinators [what is the job of pollinators], Worms [facts about worms, handling worms], Soil Not Dirt [difference between the two, how soil is made] Germination [make a germinator to take home and observe], What Part Do We Eat?[ identifying vegetables as plant parts], Water [how much fresh water is on earth/recycling]
Grade 3: State Flowers [why are state flowers chosen], Pizza Garden [take home garden of tomatoes, basil, oregano], Pollinators at Work [matching pollinators to plants], Hydroponic Gardens [growing with water], 3 Sisters Garden [companion gardening], Spices [spices come from specific plant parts]
The program is held in the Conservatory and includes a visit to the Fairgrounds Greenhouse and the Conservatory Courtyard Garden. This program runs between 90 minutes and 2 ½ hours. This program can run with a minimum or no parent volunteers.
Pre-K/Kindergarten - 'DOWN ON THE FARM' [Spring]
This program has been developed for kindergarten and Pre-K students. Located in the agriculture area of the fairgrounds, the program consists of hands on activities for children at 8 interactive stations. Parent volunteers [maximum of 12] assemble at the fairgrounds 30 minutes before students' arrival and are briefed by staff on the operation of the stations to which they have been assigned. Stations reflect farm life in the past and present and have specific content.
Stations run by staff members assisted by parents:
Dairy- identifying dairy products, how are cows milked, how is butter made, milking our "cow" by hand, how ice cream is made
Planting- identifying what plants need to grow, specific seeds grow specific plants, seeds come in different sizes, plant your own vegetable to take home
Horses- the job of horses on the farm in the past, present jobs of horses, use of horseshoes, playing horseshoes, taking a stick horse ride through a course
Fruits/Veggies- identifying fruits and vegetables, locating where they are grown
Apples/Eggs- seasons of an apple tree, kinds and colors of eggs, collecting & measuring eggs, gathering apples and eggs from "apple trees" and "nests" with the appropriate number and color assigned
Stations run by parent volunteers:
Tractors- the job of tractors on the farm, riding pedal tractors, using small tractors in a sandbox
Laundry- how laundry was done before the advent of machinery- handwashing and clothesline drying, sorting socks & buttons, beating rugs
Scarecrows- the importance of scarecrows in a garden, making scarecrows, gathering 'corn' from the cornfield
This program runs about 2 hours. 'Down on the Farm' operates in May & June. Admission is low and all adults are free.
In School Programs
The Learning Center has a variety of programs for your classroom. Each program is under an hour and includes a hands on activity. A generous sponsorship by Visions Federal Credit Union and the Agricultural Division of the Fair covers the cost of the presentation. Programs can also be developed on an agricultural topic you request. Current offerings are:
'SUNFLOWERS'- grades 1-3
This 40-60 minute presentation charts the life cycle of a sunflower, and reinforces the concept of cycle. It introduces kinds of sunflowers and their uses, the parts of a sunflower plant, and famous sunflower paintings. The book Sunflower Housereinforces the concept of life cycle. The culminating activity for students is the opportunity to plant their own sunflowers- a variety of colors is offered.
'CRANBERRIES'- grades 2-3
This 40-60 minute presentation introduces cranberries as a truly American plant, showing its uses by native Americans. It touches on states and NJ counties where cranberries are grown. Different harvesting methods and machinery are shown. Ways of testing for ripe cranberries are demonstrated. Tastings of fresh and dried cranberries are offered.
'GEORGE WASHINGTON, FARMER' -grades 4-5
This 40-60 minute presentation highlights Washington's lifelong work as a farmer at Mt. Vernon - his favorite job. It demonstrates his hands on approach to increasing the yield of his crops and breeding of his animals along with quotes from his correspondence concerning his agricultural pursuits. It shines a new light on our first president. Suitable for grades 4-5.
'NATIVE AMERICAN AGRICULTURE'- grades 2-4
This 40-60 minute presentation highlights The Three Sisters of Native American agriculture- corn, bean and pumpkin/squash. Students learn about companion planting and what is the contribution of each of the companion plants. They will see the effect that climate has on planting in different parts of the country. Students may also make their own Three Sisters seed packet and recipe book.
'FIBERS' -grades 2-4
The role of cotton and wool in providing clothing in the past and present are covered in this 40-60 minute presentation. Students will be introduced to the steps from raw materials to finished yarn/thread. Wool and cotton fibers differ and provide different advantages to the fabric made from them. Students will have the opportunity to touch products made from both to compare and contrast. A picture book will be used to introduce some concepts.
'SEEDS THAT MOVE'- grades 1-2
Using picture books and hands on materials, students will learn about the many ways of seed dispersal- wind, animals, people, etc. They will participate in simulations to demonstrate these methods.
'CREATING CHRISTMAS TREES'- grades 2-5
Christmas trees do not naturally occur in perfect shapes for decorating. Work on a Christmas tree farm can be labor intensive. Students will learn about the year long work that has to be done. They will also learn about the different kinds of evergreens/conifers.
'PETER RABBIT' -kindergarten
Students are introduced to the book Peter Rabbit along with background on the author Beatrix Potter. Vocabulary such as hoe, chamomile, currant buns, and wheelbarrow will be introduced. The students will produce a bulletin board vegetable garden as the culminating activity.