Iowa State Fair provides learning opportunities for all

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa State Fair has a lot to offer; but alongside the endless options for food and entertainment are opportunities to learn something new. Every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Bruce Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, kids and adults can do hands-on activities. Iowa State Extension and Outreach acquired a Corteva grant which funds all of the programming. 

“Supporting it are some of our teen leaders that have been trained to lead the program, so it’s really a youth development, leadership program,” says Lynne Campbell, an ISU education extension specialist. Campbell said they also have two AmeriCorp members who are part of a different youth leadership program aimed at helping young adults get more work experience. 

Monday’s Hands-On Learning topic was pollinators, and recent high school graduate Josiah Westercamp already runs a honeybee business with his sister. Westercamp says, “We run about 100 colonies of treatment-free honey bees down in southeast Iowa,” which made teaching kids about pollinators even more exciting. “Today we’re just teaching about how important pollinators are to the ecosystem. So they’re doing some activities … the one that I’ve been doing is how to enhance the habitat to have more pollinators, and there’s also one about what we wouldn’t have without pollinators,” said Westercamp.

Kids learned that there is actually a lot of food we wouldn’t have without these pollinators. Berries, almonds, and cocoa beans all come from plants or trees which have flowers that are pollinated by bees, but in their hands-on activity, kids saw that even dairy products need bees. The cows that produce things like ice cream and caramel syrup eat alfalfa, which is pollinated by bees. So in the end, kids saw that everything they needed to make an ice cream sundae is related to the existence of bees. 

“If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t have anything to put on our sundae,” said Aubrey of Prairie City, Iowa.

You can visit the hands-on corner at the 4-H Exhibits Building along Logan Avenue. Each day will feature a different topic, like STEM, Global Citizenship and Water Connects Us All. 

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