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Land lab provides outdoor classroom for Albion ag students

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 September 2013 at 12:00 am

‘This is a lot better than looking at a book.’

Photos by Tom Rivers – These Albion High School students – Aaron Burnside, Gary Moore and Dillon Black – were out in a corn field with other members of Adam Krenning’s agricultural science class on Tuesday.

ALBION – Adam Krenning used to show YouTube videos of corn planters spreading seeds in a field and combines coming through in the fall and harvesting the crop.

Krenning’s agricultural science students could read about the biology of plants from a textbook, learning about how photosynthesis from plant leaves helps grow corn and other crops.

This year, his students aren’t confined to an indoor classroom. The district last spring opened a 5-acre “Land Lab” near Clarendon Road.

A local farmer Adam Kirby planted the crop last May. Albion ag students filled the planter with seeds. One of the students, Aaron Burnside, sat in the planter with Kirby.

Four months later the plants are about 10 feet tall. Students have been out in the field, measuring the plants’ heighth, the distance between rows (29 inches) and distance between plants in each row (6 inches).

“This is a lot better than looking at a book,” said Dillon Black, a senior.

Gary Moore, an Albion 11th grader, holds an ear of corn in the school district’s 5-acre land lab, which is producing its first crop this year for the school’s agriculture program.

Students were surprised by how big and strong the corn plants grew in four months, and all that to produce one ear of corn, although different varieties could have two or three ears.

When they studied the corn plants on Tuesday, Krenning sent them about 25 plants deep into the corn field. Krenning said the edge of a corn field can give a false indication about a field’s health. The edge often has small or stilted plants because animals can feed on them or the soil is splashed with road salt.

Aaron Burnside, a junior, was impressed with the plants. He said it’s been a good growing season with lots of rain and sunshine.

“This is the first time the classes can get hands-on with the plants,” he said.

The ag sciences classes and FFA chapter have developed a corn maze that will be open to Albion elementary school students. They will each paint a pumpkin on Oct. 16-17 as part of a fall outdoor event with apple cider and donuts. Each elementary classroom is making a scare crow for that event.

The district opened the 5-acre Land Lab last year. Local farmer Adam Kirby in May brought a planter to the site to plant corn.

Later this fall students will be able to watch the corn be harvested. They also will likely be able to see it at the ethanol plant in Medina, where the corn is ground up and turned into fuel.

The district’s agricultural program also is working with Panek Farms in Albion. The farm planted corn on 63 acres of land owned by Albion Central School. Panek is tracking the farm’s expenses for the crop. It will share that data plus the revenue numbers for the crop later with students. The net profits from the crop will be donated back to the district for the ag program.

Krenning said those funds plus the knowledge shared by Panek Farms will make for a program full of enrichment for students.

Recent rainy days kept his class inside, instead of out in the corn field. He could sense their enthusiasm on Tuesday, when they went into the cornfield, inspecting and measuring the plants.

“You can explain all you want on the board or with YouTube videos, but this is where the educational aspect really happens,” Krenning said.