Agriculture exhibits at LSU give children hands-on lessons _lowres

Photo provided by Erin Hebert -- University Presbyterian Day School students look at baby alligators in a tank at the LSU AgCenter's AgMagic event on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge.

Fish, farm animals and forestry may not seem like magical topics, but this weekend’s AgMagic event at LSU aims to inspire wonder in children about Louisiana agriculture.

For the past week, AgMagic allowed children from across the state, most of them in early elementary school grades, to take a tour through various aspects of the state’s agricultural industry. Students viewed posters and diagrams, solved puzzles, saw live alligators, held baby chicks and took turns petting cows, goats and other livestock.

AgMagic opens to the general public this weekend, hosting children at Parker Coliseum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. AgMagic also will be held near New Orleans, in Violet, from May 13-16, and at the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport from Oct. 22 to Nov. 8.

The LSU AgCenter has played host to the annual event since 2004, and this year, one focus is the state’s 4-H program. In addition, the Southern University AgCenter, a new program partner, this year contributed rabbits, a biofuels processing demonstration and a nutrition game.

Wyatt Savant, 15, is a 4-H junior leader from Ville Platte who volunteered to usher student groups through the event this week. Most people who work at AgMagic are volunteers, he said, and many of them are high school students in 4-H programs from across the state.

“The first year I was a junior leader, I was stopping to read all the posters myself,” Savant said. “It’s really educational.”

Aneecha Bradley, a teacher at University Presbyterian Day School in Baton Rouge, has taken her preschoolers to AgMagic for three years. The live animals are always the biggest hit with her classes, she said.

Five-year-old Avery Hutchins, who attends Opelousas Catholic School, agreed as she stopped to pet the goats and cow on the tour.

“She loves animals and says she wants to work with them, so this is definitely her favorite part,” said Desi Hutchins, Avery’s mother.

The program’s eight portals also let children plant trees, dig up sweet potatoes, learn about insects and see eggs as they hatch.

“Some of the stuff is best for the older kids,” Savant said, as his tour group of mostly preschoolers skipped over the tree-planting station. Most portals, though, have things all ages can enjoy.

Dwayne Nunez, the LSU AgCenter’s state livestock/horse show manager, said the program hasn’t changed much in the past 11 years, although he noted the ways the LSU AgCenter presents the information have shifted. Things are clearer and the event itself is more efficient, he said.

Janet Fox, department head of the AgCenter 4-H Youth and Development Department, said she’s excited about the potential of the 4-H portal attracting younger students to join the youth organization when they reach fourth grade, she said.

“It’s a really good way to introduce the younger kids,” Nunez said.

Fox said most student groups are from schools in central and south Louisiana, and the majority of those are in the Baton Rouge area.