Monday, March 28, 2011

Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Cool, Cold Kiwis

Twig Walkingstick lives in and around the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. His alter ego is Kurt Knebusch, one of our super-talented writers and editors on campus. Each month, look for Twig to answer a reader questions and some additional interesting facts below. After Twig's post, we will be providing some ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate the info in Twig's column into fun science learning for your students and children.

Q. Dear Twig: OK, here's your kiwifruit. So how can I grow my own kiwifruit?

A. Thank you. Chomp. OK, here's your answer: It depends on where you live.

If where you live has mildish winters – Oregon, say, or California or the South – you can grow the kind of kiwifruit your mom or dad buys at the grocery store. Scientists call it Actinidia deliciosa.

But if where you live has mostly cold winters – like Ohio, where I live, or Minnesota, for example – you have to grow a different kind. Actinidia deliciosa can't take the cold.

Which kiwis can? They go by the names of hardy kiwi, arctic kiwi and Chinese gooseberry. They're related to but different species than our friend deliciosa. And also their fruits are different: smaller, sweeter, no fuzz, green. They'll keep you from freezing your kiwis off.

Next: More cool backyard fruits. Cost? Another kiwi!

Fresh, not frozen,


P.S. Read more on growing hardy kiwis.

  • OSU Extension also just published a very nice book called Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide, to be mentioned next month and you can read about here. 
  • For further kiwifruit fun and facts try (among others), (colder), (warmer) and (even warmer).
  • Hardy kiwis include the species Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta.
Using this information in the classroom:
Interested in learning about DNA and DNA extraction? Try this cool experiment extracting DNA from a kiwi!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

AgBC's: J is for John Deere

I know...not all tractors and farm equipment are John Deeres....but I was struggling coming up with a J word! No matter what particular brand of tractor farmers use, there's little doubt that production practices, technology and equipment have undergone a massive transformation in the last 100 years!

In the decades before the Civil War—a period sometimes dubbed the First Industrial Revolution—a significant number of inventions and innovations appeared, transforming American life. A telegraph system allowed information to flow from place to place more quickly than the speed of a horse. A transportation system based largely on steam power allowed goods to be shipped great distances at reduced expense. Also of great consequence was the development of the “American system of manufactures”; this system, in which individual workers were responsible for only part of a finished product, helped make store-bought goods more affordable. As a result, people began to buy goods from stores rather than making them—the American consumer was born. 

I recently stumbled across a very cool, in-depth lesson plan looking at the question of whether this time period could be dubbed an industrial revolution or a more gradual change over time.  But the part of this lesson that was most interesting to me looked at the changes in agriculture at that time. Here are some great investigations you and your students can explore together as you learn about this important time period in our nation's history:

Working as a group, ask students to indentify both the essential similarities and differences between the technology of the pre-Civil War period and that of the height of the Industrial Age. The groups can summarize their findings on this chart:

Here are some starting points for them to explore:
These changes have allowed Americans to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world! And these technologies continue to grow and develop today, helping farmers produce more food while protecting the environment as well. In fact, click here to learn more about John Deere's precision farming practices.

This series is inspired by the book The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AgBC's: I is for Insects

We love insects here at OARDC! In fact, we are in the process of gearing up for our annual A Bug's World celebration! Each year we host nearly 1,000 elementary students over 2 days here on our campus in April...and it's a blast!
This is such a fun, hands-on event for getting kids excited about the science of, it's free! This year,  in order to improve the educational experience of all of our students, we will be limiting the event to students in grades 1-3. This will allow our presenters to better target each of Ohio's 6 science standards that will be addressed.

Insects are the largest animal group on the planet by far, and they play a vital role in the workings of our world. They are not just creepy-crawlies...they are exceptional, stimulating models for your students to get excited about the scientific world around them!

To learn more about the scientific standards being addressed for grades 1-3, be sure to visit our website, where you can also download a listing of sessions that will be offered as well as their descriptions.

Registration is free, but space is limited, so register early to reserve your spot in the sessions of your choice!
And yes, those who choose to do so can even taste insects at our infamous Cafe Insecta!

Monday, March 7, 2011

AgBC's: H is for Herbs

The first written record of herbs dates all the way back to 3000 BC...but herbs were used long before that. It was probably the aroma of herbal plants (sweet, spicy, name it) that led early people to believe these plants has some serious special powers.

Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations believed some herbs were gifts from the gods to help cure illness or take away their worries. In fact, sweet smelling herbs were often burned as incense in the hope that their sweet-smelling smoke would make the gods happy...and it was a rare household that didn't use herbs on a daily basis. With no refrigeration, for example, food spoiled quickly. Aromatic herbs helped mask the smell. With limited water, daily bathing was not an option...perfumes from herbs helped hide people smells, too!

Soon scholars began to study herbs, listing possible medicinal, household, magic or even religious uses. Eventually, dispensing medicinal herbs became a business. Apothecaries began planting herbs near their homes to make gathering them more efficient, and soon they became used for decoration as well as practical purposes. These became the first plants used for garden landscaping!

When the colonists first came to the Americas, they found that Native Americans also used many herbs to flavor food as well as to prevent and cure diseases.

Today, nearly every grocery store carries herbs. Fresh herbs can be found int he produce section and dried in the seasonings section. Herbs are not generally used today for medicinal purposes, because scientists have discovered proven, effective cures for many disorders. However, many people still believe in the beneficial health properties of certain herbs.

Windowsill herb gardens are easy and fin to grow and require very little space. Try planting one of your own to learn more about these plants and how they grow and develop!

Check out Ohioline for more information on growing herbs. And for more fun information on the history and uses of herbs, check out Garden Wizardry for Kids by L. Patricia Kite.

This series is inspired by the book The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.
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