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Rugby fourth-graders get special assignment

By Staff | Mar 20, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Joey Bailey, of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, teaches Rugby fourth-graders about sugar beets used in pizza sauce.

Fourth graders from Ely and Little Flower Elementary Schools enjoyed slices of pizza at Memorial Hall in Rugby last Thursday courtesy of the Pierce County Farm Bureau.

Before their lunch, they learned where each part of their pizza came from.

Trish Jundt, secretary of the Pierce County Farm Bureau, explained the purpose of the program called “Special Assignment: Pizza.”

“It’s to help kids understand where their food comes from,” Jundt said. “I think everybody, especially in a rural community, believes our kids just know where their food comes from and a lot of them don’t. So, this is a fun way for them to see that the wheat we see growing in the fields turns into flour for pizza crust. When we go by the dairy farm, the milk we get from there turns into cheese. So, it’s fun for them to see where their food comes from, then they get the treat of having some pizza at the end.”

Volunteers from local farms and the Rugby High School Future Farmers of America manned five stations in the auditorium, each devoted to one pizza ingredient.

Students learned about how sugar beets grown in eastern North Dakota go into tomato sauce. Volunteers at other stations showed how corn, soybeans and canola become oil and wheat becomes flour for pizza crust. A meat station showed how beef and pork become pepperoni and a dairy station showed how the cheese that tops a pizza is made.

At the oils station, Becca Hennessey of the North Dakota Farm Bureau and Rugby High FFA volunteer Emma Mahle showed the fourth graders corn kernels and raw soybeans. The students eagerly raised their hands to answer questions about farm products.

“It’s pretty cool,” Mahle said about working with the elementary students. “It’s interesting listening to the kids when they come up to the tables and asking them questions. They know the answers. Most of them grew up on farms or if they didn’t, they know people who do.”

Ely fourth-grade teacher Liisa Foster said her classes have been participating in the pizza lessons for “several years.”

“The kids really enjoy it,” Foster noted. “We study North Dakota studies as part of our fourth-grade curriculum. It’s really neat to see how important agriculture is to our economy and the people of North Dakota and our community and also how it relates to them. They understand that food doesn’t come from the grocery store; it has to come from somewhere.”

“This is good for them to see really firsthand that this is where food comes from,” Foster added. “It comes from farmers and that’s important.”

“Lots of them are farm kids,” Foster said of her students. “They get it. Even the kids who live in town, they understand, living in a rural community, they understand food comes from farms.”

At the wheat station, Pierce County Farm Bureau volunteer Tyler Burgard described the uses for each part of the plant.

“There are about 50 kernels in a head of wheat,” Burgard said.

One bushel is – do you guys know what a five-gallon pail looks like? That’s about one bushel of wheat,” Burgard added.

“There are 780,000 kernels in a bushel of wheat. There are 57 large pizzas in a bushel of wheat. Forty-two loaves of bread come from one bushel of wheat,” Burgard said.

“So, a football field is equal to (1.32 acres),” FFA volunteer Thatcher Volk told the students at the station. “In that football field, you get about 2,000 large pizza crusts from it. That’s a lot of pizza.”

Volk helped students grind wheat kernels into flour.

Volunteer Brad Wangler explained the nutrients available in pepperoni and sausage made from beef and pork, using a wheel labeled “Squeal of Fortune.”

Mark Thiel explained the basics of cheese making and the value of calcium at the dairy booth.

Joey Bailey of the North Dakota Farm Bureau said she was impressed by the Rugby elementary students’ knowledge of agriculture.

“It makes me really happy,” Bailey said. “The rural schools are teaching about agriculture but when you get into the inner city schools – Fargo, Grand Forks, Dickinson – they don’t necessarily know about the different facets of agriculture that we raise in North Dakota.”

Ely fourth-grade teacher Lindsey Bush said of Special Assignment: Pizza, “I think it’s great. It’s good for the kids to come and see all the things we have in North Dakota to contribute to what they eat – what goes on their table.”

Katie Genetzky, who teaches third- and fourth graders at Little Flower Elementary School agreed.

“I think it’s really great because it integrates what they’re learning in school,” Genetzky said. “Last year, they went to the dairy in Denbigh, and that was kind of cool because they knew some of the stuff already and were able to connect it to the real world.”

“I have a lot of farm kids and farm families in my class,” Genetzky added.

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