YORKTON – Every year during the Yorkton Exhibition's Harvest Showdown an event takes place that brings the world of agriculture to the youths of the parkland.
“Every year during Harvest Showdown we bring grade fours and sevens to Harvest Showdown,” said Kaitlyn Kitzan, Organizer of Ag Education at Harvest Showdown, in an interview with Yorkton This Week.
This year, the event saw participation of about 950 students from not just Yorkton schools, but also from Kamsack, Fort Quappelle, Lemberg, and Melville.
The students are taken on a journey through different stations, each designed to provide a unique hands-on learning experience. “We’ve got stations for grade fours and then stations for grade sevens,” Kitzan explained.
The stations range from animal stations to learning more about grain production and fertilizer as well as covering different aspects of Food Science. In total, there were 18 different stations.
Kitzan said the committee worked closely with Ag In the Classroom Sask to ensure that the stations met curriculum requirements.
“We try to make sure that it meets the grade four and the grade seven curriculum,” said Kitzan.
The stations are all interactive, providing activities that students can’t do in the classroom. “If it’s just something they can do in the classroom they might as well just stay in the classroom and do it," said Kitzan, adding, "we want to give them the most hands-on ... activities that they can’t do in the classroom.”
Kitzan’s journey with the program started when she was in high school, and she has been involved for over 10 years. She started as a volunteer leading groups around to each of the stations. “Through university, I would actually travel back and lead one of the stations — whatever station they needed help leading. Sometimes it was the canola crush one, sometimes it was the food science one,” she recalled. In recent years Kitzan said she has worked to organize the school tours.
Kitzan grew up on a farm north of Theodore, a grain and cattle operation. She pursued a Bachelor of Science in Agri-business and has worked in the ag industry since.
“I love it — I love seeing how excited the kids are when they walk through the door — and when they leave how their excitement carries on,” said Kitzan.
The program has become so popular that teachers have been calling well in advance to find out when registration opens for the tour. “As soon as registration opens it gets filled up within the first few days. There’s just such a high demand,” said Kitzan.
This year, there was more of a focus on ag technology. “We had a drone station where kids could learn how farmers or the agriculture industry is using drones,” said Kitzan.
The program also spent a little bit more time on food science as value-added is becoming more important in agriculture. Grain Millers, a long-time supporter of the program, led a grade seven and a grade four station. A new station called the Big Black Dome was introduced, a VR Video where kids would learn about cattle production. “That was something new that the kids got to participate in,” Kitzan adds.
“I think for me doing this for so many years it’s really interesting to see … the same teachers registering year-after-year. We’re obviously providing value to those classrooms, those teachers, those students,” said Kitzan.
The success of the program is evident in the number of return teachers and classrooms. “We have a lot of returning teachers and classrooms,” said Kitzan, adding,“every year it’s always a huge success — we’re always thinking how do we expand it — how do we grow it.”
However, expanding the program is not without its challenges.
“It’s hard when it’s a four day event but only three days during the work day and you can only put so many kids through a day,” said Kitzan.
Despite these challenges, Kitzan said to keep growing the program as much as they can.
For those interested in getting involved Kitzan said to reach out to the Yorkton Exhibition Association.
“We’re always looking for volunteers to sit on the committee or even to help out those three days.”
The program is looking for almost 200 volunteers every year. “As our volunteers are tending to get more older we’re starting to lose some of our volunteers that have been with the program since day one,” said Kitzan.