By SEAN ROWLEY
Among those who live healthy lifestyles, research indicates a person is more likely to practice good health habits as an adult if they are instilled at an early age.
Fifth-graders at Tahlequah Middle School each spent about an hour visiting the stations of Farm to You, a collaborative program supported by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma State University Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Oklahoma Department of Health and Southwest Dairy Farmers.
Lisa Taylor, a registered dietician who serves as Farm to You coordinator, said the program’s goals are education and intervention.
“We want to let kids know about agriculture - to know how food is produced and all the work that goes into it,” Taylor said. “Also, Oklahoma has high rates of obesity, heart disease and tobacco use. This program helps kids understand the need to live healthy.”
The display includes 10 stations, four of which focus on agriculture: Farmer Pete’s Garden, Pete’s Chicken Coop, Pete’s Dairy Farm and Pete’s Field of Grains. Six stations emphasize health: Mouth, Stomach, Small Intestine, Muscle, Bone and Skin.
Included are a simulations of gardening and cow-milking, and chairs shaped like teeth.
“When visiting the Stomach, the kids learn a little about portion size and the stomach’s role in digestion,” Taylor said. “In Muscle, they learn how exercise helps the heart. They learn about the importance of calcium in Bone, and in Skin they learn about why it is important to wash their hands. They also take part in an activity where they get to see germs.”
Farm to You was displayed in the TMS gymnasium. Volunteers served as staff and guided students through the stations.
“This exhibit has been revamped during the last year,” said Heather Winn, educator for the Cherokee County Extension Office. “It has visited our county three or four times before. The exhibit now incorporates and discusses more of the agricultural element - how it affects our nutrition and health. Though this is a rural county, not all kids know about gardens and grains. I think they are really enjoying it.”
Val Dobbins, safe schools coordinator for Tahlequah Public Schools, contacted the Cherokee County OSU Extension Office to arrange the visit by Farm to You. Tahlequah BEST also helped organize the visit with funding provided through the Cherokee Nation’s $1.3 million Community Transformation Grant, awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Most of our trips to schools are set up by the county extension offices,” Taylor said. “This is the fifth year of the program, and we have visited 71 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.”
Taylor said she coordinates the program because children “seem to retain what they learn really well.”
“It is such a neat experience for the kids,” she said. “A lot of the stations are very interactive. I enjoy seeing the kids actually take part in the stations - picking vegetables or milking a cow.”
For information about Farm to You visit www.farmtoyou.okstate.edu or contact Lisa Taylor at (405) 713-1125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.