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Mobile lab brings farm to Elderton Elementary

| Thursday, March 29, 2012

ELDERTON — Students at Elderton Elementary School have been busy making crayons out of soy, popping corn on the cob, learning about bugs and pulling banana DNA out of test tubes.

And it has all happened outside the classroom in a 40-foot Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab — parked in the school's lot.

Pam Augustine of Kittanning is a certified teacher who travels around the state with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's mobile lab. It has 12 work stations and provides materials and supplies for all of the hands-on lessons and experiments which focus on different aspects of agriculture.

"I don't think anyone has been bored all day," said Gwen Daquilante, a parent volunteer.

Daquilante's daughter, Olivia, is in kindergarten and her son, Tanner, is in fifth grade. She said the kids had a lot of questions and learned a lot from the lessons in the lab.

Holly Tirpak, whose son, Kaden is in fifth grade and whose daughter, Kailey, in first grade, also was a parent volunteer at the lab this week. She said that her kids have been excited about participating in it.

This is the second year the school has had a visit from the mobile lab.

Trisha Dilick, who teaches fourth grade at Elderton, said she attended a Penn State program designed for teachers to learn how to incorporate agriculture in the classroom.

"We got to see the mobile lab. As soon as I came back, I looked into getting the lab here," she said.

Last year the Armstrong County Farm Bureau sponsored the lab's visit to Elderton, said Dilick. The school's Parent-Teacher Association helped fund the lab's visit for both years. She said this year the teachers contributed funds from money raised through their dress-down days and the Lions Club also supported the effort.

Dilick said the students learn about agriculture while using the full scientific method during the 50-minute lab period. And because the school population is not large, said Dilick, the students get to participate in two different lab periods.

"They added new programs this year so all our kids got to do different experiments," said Dilick.

She said there are six mobile labs which travel throughout the state. Each mobile lab is decorated differently.

"I love that we get this one, it prompts questions from the kids," she said.

In the lab, above every work station, hung posters titled "A Day in Your Life." Each poster contained pictures of common items which people use that are derived from agricultural products.

"It's wonderful," said Dilick. "It promotes interest in science and agriculture."

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