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Roping them in: DSU teaches Jefferson kids about ag, rodeo

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Dickinson State University student and rodeo athlete Colbey Steeke teaches Jefferson Elementary School student how to rope a calf in the DSU indoor rodeo arena during the school's annual mini lessons, Friday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Every year, the third, fourth and fifth graders of Jefferson Elementary School visit area businesses to learn about careers.

Dinah Eslinger, teacher, said the kids look forward to the mini lessons every year.

"We try to stick with quite a few of the same places. Sometimes when we call the following year, they don't want to do it or something came up and they can't do it, so we do add in a couple new ones every year," she said.

This year, students got to pick from Dakota Sew & So, Players Bar and Grill, Logo Magic, High Plains Dental, DSU Science, the local fire department, Southwest Grain, Southwest Water, Dickinson Ready Mix and DSU agriculture and rodeo.

"A lot of them really like to go and do things where they work with food or they get to learn about making food ... I went to the vet one year, and the kids I went to the vet with loved going to the vet. Those are pretty popular ones, so is like the police station and going to see what police officers do," Eslinger said.

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Adyn Emard, third grader, and Jesse Burman, fourth grader, chose DSU's agriculture and rodeo where they got to practice roping and barrel rolling.

Annika Plummer, administrative secretary for the Dept. of Agriculture and Technical Studies, talked to the kids about caring for the indoor rodeo arena.

"If you don't clean and pick up all of the poop, it makes for really bad dirt in there. We have one student who works the arena," she said.

Plummer asked the kids what it means to "work an arena."

"You have to take a tractor and drag the arena because if we don't do that, what happens? What happens if we take nice, fluffy soil and we're running over it? It gets all hard, and then that's hard on everyone's joints. We want it to be soft," she said.

Prior to the hands-on activities, Dr. Chip Poland, chair of the department, talked to the kids about agriculture in North Dakota.

He said his department has participated in the mini lessons for at least the past three years for multiple reasons.

"We're always recruiting — doesn't matter if they're (in) third, fourth and fifth grade," Poland said. "Agriculture is important to North Dakota. Although, if you live in town, I'm not sure that even in a place like North Dakota, you make the connection of where your food comes from and the importance of it to the state in general."

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He said they're finding that students in recent years have come to DSU with less knowledge about agriculture than the students of the past.

"For the most part, we're finding more and more students being less and less knowledgeable before they come as to where their food comes or how their environment operations and how those two connect with one another ... I would hope, not only (with) this, but the Kids Day on the Farm piece that we have with even younger kids, that we begin this conversation that food starts somewhere, and it's not the grocery store," Poland said.

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Dr. Chip Poland, chair of Dickinson State University's Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies, talks to Jefferson Elementary School kids about North Dakota's agriculture during the school's annual mini lessons, Friday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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