On a STEM Saturday field trip to the farm, I learned a lot. My bus group went into the barn to get instructions. We were then divided into smaller groups of about six or seven, given a map of the Chesapeake Bay, and told to figure out what the map was about. Then, we had to give a four to five minute presentation about what we learned from the map. Our map was a hand-drawn by Captain John Smith when he came to the Virginia colony. His map had a key showing wealthy houses around the Chesapeake Bay.
We gathered as a group and shared our maps about what we had learned. Some of the other maps showed elevations around the Chesapeake Bay, varying depths of the Bay and another was a satellite map of the Bay. The maps ranged in information given as well as when they were created. I was impressed by how technology can completely change how we see our world. John Smith’s map was hand drawn and he had general information about the number of creeks and rivers and where they were located. The satellite map shows where all the rivers, creeks, and smallest streams enter the Chesapeake Bay.
We then went up the hill and were shown different ways that water flows. The categories were:
- an urban yard (dirt and sidewalk)
- a suburban yard (mostly grass with some weeds)
- a strip farm (alternating foot wide strips of grass and corn)
- a field farm (a solid field of corn)
- a forest floor (trees and shrubs)
Since it had rained recently, the rainwater had filtered through each category and gathered in a barrel at the bottom. Each group was given a card describing a category and we had to work together to decide which of the examples fit our description. My group’s category was the strip farm and we made our decision by using the information and picture on the card.
We came back together as one group and looked at what was in each barrel. The urban yard’s barrel was filled almost to the top and was mucky and gross with dirt in it. The suburban yards barrel was two-thirds full of water that was less dirty then the urban yard, but full of grass and weeds. The strip farming barrel was about half way full of water. The water in this barrel was gray in color and had cornhusks and grass in it. The field farm barrel was three-eighths full of water and the water was browner that the strip farm and also had corn husks in it. The forest barrel had barely any water in it and the water that was in there was clear. From this experiment, I learned that forests are the best way to keep our rivers and the Bay water clean and healthy. We talked about and learned the fact that deforestation is harmful to our waterways.
The last area that we learned about was two ways of raising cows and how each way affects our water. We were divided into two groups and handed a set of cards each describing different steps of getting beef to our dinner tables and what happens after that.
I was in the green group and we sorted our cards out as follows: The calf is born and fed lots of hay to get stronger; then in the late spring through the early fall the herd of cows are allowed to graze in different fields (they move the herd from field to field to graze and then let the grass grow back); when fall turns to winter the cows are moved to a barn where the farmer feeds them hay during the winter.
This process is continued until cows mature enough to send them to the butcher. The butcher is committed to killing the cows as humanely as possible. Currently, that is to put the cows to sleep before they are killed so that they don’t feel any pain. Next, the meat is packaged and shipped to the grocery store where the consumer buys it, cooks it and eats it. The waste after consumption is treated at the wastewater treatment plant, which then returns water the Chesapeake Bay.
The blue group put their cards in about the following order: The calf is born and it is fed corn and injected with and other drugs (like antibiotics) for several years. The cows are kept in tight pens during the warmer months and feed corn (some cows get sick and die) and then in the winter they are housed in a barn and are fed corn and hay. This process repeats until the cows are mature enough to be killed. The butchers don’t really care about what the cows feel so the butchering is not as humane. The meat is packaged and shipped to the grocery store where the consumer buys it, cooks it and eats it. The waste after consumption is treated at the wastewater treatment plant, and hopefully, the steroids and antibiotics are processed out of the water; otherwise, they flow into the Chesapeake Bay along with the water.
I thought that the green group’s way of raising cattle was a better solution for our planet. The cows’ lives were better and more natural. The meat we consume is healthier to eat as the consumer is not eating steroids (antibiotics etc.) that we don’t need; and, the Chesapeake Bay is kept healthier because steroids are not going into the water.My day at the farm was a really fun way to learn about how farming can affect the Bay. The way we live, the kinds of neighborhoods we choose to live in, as well as farming techniques and preservation and restoration of natural forests all affect whether the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is dirty and unhealthy or is clean and healthy.
This day at the farm has inspired me to try to choose a lifestyle (including the type of landscape I have in my yard – more trees, less lawn and absolutely no fertilizer) as well as choosing the type of meat I select at the grocery store.
Sixth grader Craig Koziel, Central Middle School, Anne Arundel County, was inspired by his STEM day at the farm.