Four fifth-grade students at Palestine’s University Academy recently won first or second place in Texas Farm Bureau’s Ag Inquiry Science Fair, the organization’s first competition for elementary students.
Students competed against other fifth graders from across Texas in five categories. Molly Moran and Natalie Buckland placed first and second in Animal Science; Matthew Tang placed second in Agronomy; and Diya Patel placed first in Water Systems/Conservation. Other categories were Technology in Agriculture and Sustainability in Agriculture.
The virtual contest encouraged students to explore agriculture-related topics and search for information to answer their questions. Students created a tri-fold poster displaying their research and presented an informative three to five minute video.
Each student recorded their questions and answers about an agricultural topic in a journal. The contest required research of information using a variety of sources online, in interviews, or through observation.
Buckland chose to learn about goats, their breeds and physical characteristics, and their milk.
“I learned lots of interesting facts about goats,” Buckland said. “I did lots of research.”
Moran said she learned interesting facts while researching milk production in dairy cows. For example, dairy cows need 100 feet of space for nutrition and growth. They also need to take vacations from lactating before having new calves.
Tang’s inquiry focused on the role of insects in agriculture. He learned how some insects help crops and how others can harm them.
Three judges outside TFB scored dozens of videos submitted virtually. The competition offered prizes for the top three winners in each category. Winners will discuss their projects and ask additional questions with a TFB representative online.
Jordan Walker, TFB’s education director, said many students showed creativity in their inquiries and increased their knowledge or agriculture and resources.
“Our goal with this program is to help students connect agriculture to things they’re learning every day,” Walker said. “The students got incredibly creative. They asked questions to help them think critically.”
Walker said the pandemic may have limited the number of entries this year because teachers are struggling with a high workload and may have opted not to offer the opportunity to their students.
Walker credited the efforts of Korey Green, middle school science teacher at University Academy, for promoting the program and guiding students through their stages of inquiry.
“We’re thankful for teachers like Green who encourage students to think critically and promote this program,” Walker said.
Moran said she learned another valuable lesson.
“I learned that hard work and creativity can definitely pay off — even when you have a short amount of time.”