November 26, 2008

Jefferson County 4-H'ers from Highland Middle School were introduced to environmentally-friendly agricultural practices during a recent day camp.

The Environmental Day Camp was a partnership between the Cooperative Extension Services of University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University and was funded by a 4-H Toyota Water Grant.

Dennis Ruhl, Jefferson County 4H Youth development agent, said the camp was a prime opportunity for the inner-city students to get an introduction to agriculture and environmental issues in a natural setting.

The students participated in hands-on demonstrations at KSU's research farm. KSU agricultural specialists discussed agriculture's impact on the environment and the importance of environmentally-friendly farming practices. Topics included sustainability, organic agriculture, apiculture, water quality, gardening, goats and environmental education.

"We are looking at the whole aspect of small-scale agriculture at this camp," said Ken Andries, KSU animal science specialist. "We hope this information is something that some of these kids can take home and apply to a small window box garden and produce their own food locally."

The demonstrations allowed the students to see how the subjects they are learning in school apply to real-life situations.

"We've studied populations in ecosystems and earth sciences in class, but when they come to the farm, it gives them the opportunity to interact with professionals and get a greater appreciation and awareness for agricultural sciences," said Winsbert Ansine, Highland Middle School science teacher.

Highland Middle School teachers said they plan to discuss ways to incorporate the information and the life skill applications the students learned through the camp into their curriculum.

Ruhl said he will introduce the students to geographic information systems technology and continue to talk with them about the importance of water quality and environmental issues.

This camp was just one of several projects planned for Jefferson County 4-H'ers that focus on water quality and the environment. Professionals from the Louisville Water Company and Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District are discussing monthly topics with young people at 22 elementary school 4-H clubs and 12 middle school 4-H clubs in the county. Senior 4-H'ers will also be taking samples from Beargrass Creek, which flows through Louisville, as part of a water quality study at Presentation Academy.

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