Now that the Meridian FFA Elementary Ag Expo has been around southwest Idaho for 11 years, many of the high school students giving instructions to first-graders remember what it was like to be on the receiving end.
Courtney Marshall, Meridian FFA reporter and event co-chair, fondly recalls attending the expo at Meridian High School when she was in first grade.
“It was a huge highlight of our year,” she said.
The expo, a field trip for all first-graders in the West Ada School District, draws more than 3,000 students, plus their teachers and some parents. It also features an evening event for the public.
Introducing food production makes sense in first grade because students for the first time combine information-based and hands-on learning in a full school day, said Cassidey Plum, event chair and Meridian FFA chapter vice president.
“Agriculture is easily overlooked, but if you implement it in the classrooms at an early age, it will stay with them throughout their educational careers,” she said. Earlier, she gave a tour of the expo to Idaho Agriculture in the Classroom board members.
“All are excited,” Marshall said Sept. 25, the first day of the three-day expo.
Miriam Lott, who teaches first grade at Pioneer Elementary School, liked what she saw of the event and her students’ response.
“Because there is a lot to see, they are interested,” she said. “And they love animals. They love being able to see and interact with them.”
The expo benefits FFA students as well as visiting first-grade teachers, said Michelle Ball, who teaches agriculture at Meridian and Centennial high schools.
Teachers get material they can incorporate into lessons, and FFA students working in the expo learn skills not easily replicated in a classroom, she said. They include organizing and running the event, seeing a need and fulfilling it, teaching young students and advising and cooperating with peers.
How to interact with and stay safe around the animals is continuously discussed with the first-grade students.
Marshall said FFA students also must be ready to teach or even entertain first-graders for short periods, like when they are waiting in line to enter the main venue.
As for lessons the high school students learn in FFA and in class, “now they are actually able to apply it, pass it on and teach first-graders,” Ball said.
The FFA chapter includes all five of West Ada’s traditional high schools.