From left, Jess McWatters from Pettisville, McKayla Clymer from Wauseon, and Mekenzie Jolliff from Kenton helped educate students in Defiance about agriculture through the GrowNextGen program in June.

GrowNextGen Tour highlights

By Matt Reese

Courtesy of the Ohio Soybean Council, the Ohio Ag Net and Ohio’s Country Journal will be helping showcase agriculture to students around the state through the 2022 GrowNextGen Tour.

GrowNextGen was launched in 2014 with funding from the soybean checkoff through the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio soybean farmers. The program provides teachers with free, high quality STEM units and lessons that bring agriculture principles and practices into the science classroom. With a primary focus on biology, chemistry, food science and environmental science standards, GrowNextGen includes e-learning courses and a network of educators and industry leaders to answer questions and provide resources to support the lessons. The goal of the program is to increase student interest in careers related to food productionCareer videos and discussion guides describing career pathways allow teachers to give students a look into multiple careers they might not have considered.

Ronda Uresti-Forman and Kathleen Moore are pipetting their soy biodiesel they created to fuel their pop-pop boats at the July 28 GrowNextGen workshop and tour stop at Global Impact STEM Academy. They will then place it in a pool of water to test out their soy biodiesel.

This 2022 Tour is a select group of stops during a packed summer schedule of GrowNextGen events. An early stop of the 2022 summer tour was June 9 at the Defiance Library where Dale Minyo caught up with some of the 15 GrowNextGen 2022 ambassadors, college students who help implement the programming. Mekenzie Jolliff, lead ambassador, is starting her third year in the role working with Ohio students in activities related to plant growth/germination, elementary chemistryengineering challenges, and careers in food production, engineering, or animal science. Jolliff said she enjoys helping students learn about agriculture through activities like building an egg catcher to keep the egg from breaking (then talking about how eggs come from chickens fed by soybeans), making chapstick from a soy wax blend and crafting necklaces that show the growth cycle of soybeans. In Defiance, they were talking about soy-based ink.

“The ambassadors attend trainings to learn more about the 6 different main activities we do. We just added a new activity with drones,” Jolliff said. “Ambassadors can schedule their own events if they want and teach those as well. It’s a great experience if you love education and working with kids.”

Jess McWatters attends Huntington University in Indiana majoring in biology education. The Defiance event was her first activity as a GrowNextGen ambassador.

“It was fun. I really enjoyed teaching kids about soybeans but also interacting with them and helping them understand big words like bioproduct and emulsifier,” McWatters said. “I hope to teach science, which makes GrowNextGen a great avenue for this because I also have a passion for ag and I can tie a lot of this ag-based curriculum into my biology classes, which is the goal.”

Additional 2022 Tour events are:

• Ag Biotech Academy 2022, June 28, Springfield

• Crawford County Fair, July 22, Bucyrus

• Ohio State Fair, Aug. 2, Columbus

• Chickenology Workshop, Aug. 12, Columbus

• Investigating Water Quality, Sept. 9, Highbanks Metro Park, Lewis Center

• ChickQuest, Sept. 27, Columbus

• Ohio Soybean Industry Dinner, Dublin

Those interested in serving as 2023 ambassadors or learning more about upcoming events should visit grownextgen.org. 

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