July 10, 2013

A fair tale

Story time at fair teaches kids about agriculture

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — While the cows in the Beef Barn of the Cass County 4-H Fairgrounds Tuesday were being prepped for showing by their owners, the cows at the West Picnic Pavilion were clacking away on typewriters.

“I bet you didn’t know cows could type,” said Jane Horner, a volunteer with Cass County Reading Railroad, to about 20 children listening from picnic tables at the fairgrounds Tuesday. In her hand was a book titled “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type”, a story of farm animals that engage in a battle of written correspondence with their farmer to get electric blankets for cold nights in the barn and a diving board for the ducks’ pond.

It was all a part of Story Time at the Fair, which will be held for free from 10 to 11 a.m. today through Friday Each day will include stories and activities featuring different animals.

Tuesday’s theme focused on cows and included two stories on the animal, a coloring activity, freshly-served milkshakes and a visit from a real calf — who didn’t have a typewriter, but she let the children pet her.

“The children can learn more about the animals instead of just walking through the barns,” said Horner, who along with her participation in Cass County Reading Railroad, also teaches early childhood education at Ivy Tech Community College. “Any time we can get literacy, it’s great.”

Story Time at the Fair will address sheep and llamas today, chickens and rabbits Thursday and swine Friday.

“The kids can listen to a fun book, then more of an informational book on that animal,” said Rena Sterrett, program director for Reading Railroad, adding that participating in the crafts and getting to see the animals up close will supplement the information they’ll learn in the books.

The nonfiction children’s book Tuesday was read by Rachel Taylor, a representative of the Family Nutrition Program at the Purdue Cass County Extension Service. The book described how calves grow into cows, what they eat and all of the goods they go on to produce.

“What other things does milk make?” Taylor asked the children, receiving enthusiastic replies that included cheese, butter, yogurt and others. As each product was called out, she handed a laminated decal of the corresponding product.

It was a smooth transition into the next part of the event, which included yet another dairy product — milkshakes — which were blended there for the children.

Taylor emphasized the importance of getting enough dairy products as they contain calcium, which is necessary for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. She added some dairy products, like the milkshakes the children enjoyed, should be reserved as a special treat every once in a while.

Taylor then gave all of the children a coloring book with pictures of cows, which they took to with the boxes of crayons on the picnic tables. Before handing out the booklets, she read the story in them that outlined how cows produce milk and how it is turned into all of the products they see at grocery stores.

Most of the attendees were elementary school-aged children from Kidz Connection, a daycare service at Church of the Brethren in Logansport. Kristi Stetz and Carrie Ulery, both summer teachers with the program, supervised the children throughout the event.

Stetz said she and Ulery are always looking out for activities for the children to participate in throughout the summer.

“We got an agenda for the fair and thought this was perfect,” she said.

Stetz went on to say the youngsters play tee ball Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, leaving Tuesday a perfect opportunity to visit the fair.

“We try to do all kinds of stuff with them to keep them busy,” she said.

Stetz agreed that the event provided a good base of agricultural knowledge for the children, delivered in a way they could understand, so that they understood more about the fair as they visited all of the animal exhibits throughout the week.

“A lot of times, it’s so busy in the barn that they don’t always have a chance to stop and talk with the owners,” she said. “This is a perfect way to do that.”

Lynette Griffin, an intern with the Purdue Cass County Extension Service, said the event is booked with daycare groups like Kidz Connection through the remainder of the week. However, small groups of walk-ins are always welcome, she said.

“We’re getting a lot of good feedback this year,” she said, adding that the event is also good for the younger siblings of 4-H members who may be too young to participate in activities, but wish to learn more about the fair.

Along with a volunteer from Reading Railroad reading different stories each day, activities for the remainder of the week will range from cotton ball sheep crafts and pop can piggy banks, Griffin said.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” she said.

TODAY DAY SPONSOR -- DICK SIMS AGENCY, INC. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.: 4-H Office open 7:30 a.m.: 4-H Dairy Feeder Steer Show, 4-H Dairy Steer Show, 4-H Beef Show, EB 9 a.m.: 4-H Horse & Pony Show (Performance), HA 9 a.m.: Cookie Bake-A-Rama registration, PP 10 a.m.: Cookie judging (open to public), PP 10 to 11 a.m.: Story Time at the Fair, WPP Noon to 8 p.m.: Pork Producers food booth open 3 to 9 p.m.: Junior Leader Activity Day 5 p.m.: Food and Nutrition Program -- "How to Pack a Picnic,"CC 5 p.m.: Closing amusement rides -- wristbrands $18 each 6:30 p.m.: Little Cowboy & Cowgirl Cutie Contest, OS 8 p.m.: Thomas Rhett and Dustin Lynch Country Artists, TPA