By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
— DANVILLE – Six Danville Middle School eighth-graders took home top prizes in agricultural contests at the Bloomsburg Fair this past September.
Five of these students participated in the poster display competition and also beat out high school freshman and sophomore students in the “junior agronomy” contest, where they had to work together to correctly identify 10 crop samples and five weed samples.
In addition, eighth-grader Aleah Wenner took home the blue ribbon in the middle school competition for sweet bell peppers, which she grew in her own garden.
“They cleaned house,” said their science teacher, Mackenzie McCollum. Their competition took place Sept. 23. All the competing students were also members of the district’s FFA club.
Three posters were entered by five students for the competition. The posters recorded the results of different experiments conducted by each group of students.
Ethan Benjamin’s poster won first place in the natural science category on water quality tests he performed in both Mahoning Creek and the Susquehanna River. Based on his results, the Susquehanna River was actually cleaner.
Taylor Cashner and Ashley Brent won first place for their animal science poster, which examined the presence and spread of West Nile virus in alpacas. One of the girls’ has a relative who owns an alpaca farm, which is what prompted their interest, said McCollum.
Jazmin Carter and Taylor Brosious took home the blue ribbon for their plant science poster, which had them examining their class room’s kalanchoe plant and how sunlight effected its growth.
Their experiment demonstrated that students don’t need to live in a rural area to study agriculture, said McCollum. “I don’t want kids to think they have to live on a farm to be active in an agricultural class,” she said.
Those five students also were named the top five competing in the poster contest that day. Their proudest accomplishment, though, was coming in first in the agronomy competition. “They were the only middle schoolers competing in that division that day,” said McCollum. “They did great.”
The poster competitors each won $5 for their first place entries and each won an additional $10 for coming first for the agronomy contest. Aleah won $5 for her first place peppers and a $10 Cole’s gift card for winning the “Cole’s Hardware Award” for her produce.
McCollum, a Danville graduate, was hired at the start of this school year to start a middle school agriculture program. She selected students for the contest who had been the most active so far in the district’s FFA program. “I just lucked into having really enthusiastic kids who were excited to try something new…they kind of took the projects and ran with it,” she said.
“They gave up lunches, study halls and worked their tails off to do all this in a very short amount of time,” she continued. “It’s really exciting because it gave us the momentum to push the agriculture program forward.”
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