Eleven children participate in Lakewood Ranch High Future Farmers of America's first summer camp.
Brynn Shear, a rising fourth grader at B.D. Gullett Elementary School, bent down in the chicken coop at Lakewood Ranch High School and scooped up a chicken.
She gently caressed the small chicken.
"I like working with chickens," Shear said. "It's my passion."
Shear was able to learn more about chickens as well as beef and dairy cows and goats during the second day of Future Farmers of America's first Little Ranchers summer camp.
Maddy Hartwig, a rising senior at Lakewood Ranch High School and the president of the school's Future Farmers of America chapter, said the agriculture camp is the first of its kind at the school, which gives camp participants an opportunity to learn about agriculture and how it impacts them.
"The camp is focused around agriculture education and getting students a chance to look at agriculture and how it affects their life," Hartwig said. "I'm excited to see the kids learn, and see how it is a good thing for the community."
Throughout the weeklong camp, 11 campers, who are going into second through sixth grades, learned about plant, animal, marine, and environmental sciences. With plant sciences, campers learned about good insects versus harmful insects, the food chain of insects and how insects affect plants. Animal sciences taught campers about beef cows, dairy cows, chickens and goats as well as how to make butter. Through marine sciences, campers learned about water filtration and why it's important. Environmental sciences taught campers about soil and the nutrients needed to grow crops.
The final day of the camp was spent teaching campers about leadership through team building exercises and games.
Mia Gorskey, a rising third grader at Gene Witt Elementary School, liked being able to have hands-on experiences with the animals and activities during camp.
Lorenzo Vagi, a rising fourth grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, loved spending time with the goats. He laughed as he showed the edge of his shirt missing due to a goat bite.
Campers shared interesting facts they learned while interacting with the animals.
For example, Shear learned that goats can live for about 15 years and cows can live for 20 years while Gorskey learned about byproducts of cows such as toothpaste.
The camp also was a learning opportunity for the 14 camp counselors, who are members of the school's FFA chapter.
Hartwig and Hannah Yancey, a rising senior at Lakewood Ranch High and FFA member, both said working with the campers will give them an opportunity to see whether becoming an agriculture teacher would be something of interest to them.
"I like to teach kids, but I didn't know if teaching was something I wanted to do for a long time," Yancey said. "Plus it's always good to remember the basics of agriculture because sometimes you forget about it whenever you're learning much harder stuff."
Hartwig is hoping the camp will expand next year with new participants as well as returning campers. She said if campers choose to return, the counselors will be able to build upon the foundation of knowledge they have from this year.
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