Skyline student helps bring Kids Ag Day back for Pratt children

Billie Blair
Pratt Tribune
Charles Collins, Skyland Grain Safety Consultant, demonstrates how combustible grain dust is at last week's Kids Ag Day at Skyline High School west of Pratt.

A Skyline High School student’s love of agriculture brought a tradition back to Pratt, Kids Ag Day, this year. The annual event, usually planned by the Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee’s, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 and plans for 2021 were not in the works until Cali Newdigger, a Skyline junior got the ball rolling. Newdigger, along with her FFA student advisor Anita DeWeese, and a group of like-minded friends brought the farm to Skyline students on April 12, and plans are in place to do the same for Pratt students on May 12.

The event usually made available for fifth grade students from Pratt, Skyline, Cunningham and area homeschooled children has been going on for at least 25 years, according to Kim DeClue, executive director of the Chamber. Because of the COVID-19 disease outbreak, this event was cancelled last school year. The event was tweaked this year to make it happen for the fifth graders in Pratt and at Skyline in a way that considered pandemic restrictions.

In past years, fifth grade students go to Pratt Feeders and the Blasi Farm for Ag Day to learn about what happens on a working farm. This year the decision was made to bring the farm to schools, rather than take the students to the farm, allowing a little more control with the size of groups and social distancing. Because this year’s sixth grade students did not have the opportunity to attend Kids Ag Day as fifth graders, they were included in this year’s event.

Skyline students Caiden Smiley (with the rope) and Jackson Rosenbaum (waiting) enjoyed learning farming and ranching skills last Monday at Skyline Schools during Kids Ag Day.

At Skyline last week, the special day involved groups of five students rotating through six 30-minute stations, to take part in activities like farm safety, team work, horse-shoeing, roping, and up-close-and-personal visits with farm animals ( sheep, goats, cattle, pigs and bunnies). The animals belonged to FFA students. Groups were led from station to station by FFA students and helpers from the Pratt Area Chamber and the community. FFA students were also in the classrooms leading interactive workshops. There are approximately 48 students in FFA at Skyline this year. DeWeese said the students planned the event and she simply helped where needed.

A new demonstration on shoeing horses was presented by Greg and Ben Johnsrud from Nebraska . They explained each step of the process to the kids.

Newdigger, and her fellow student-planners said they bounced ideas around about what the event might look like at Skyline. She also said they were thankful for the good support they received from the Chamber, school administration and the community.

“There is a gap for many young people living in what some call the middle of nowhere when there is actually so much to learn about agriculture,” Newdigger said. “Many children even in rural areas do not get close to animals. I am blessed to live in rural Kansas and to attend a school that will step in and offer this kind of opportunity.”

Newdigger was not attending Skyline when she was in the fifth grade, so she did not get to participate as an elementary student. She helped with Ag Day during her freshman year, then, of course, Ag Day was not offered during the 2019-2020 school year. Newdigger believes in the importance of children learning about agriculture. 

Newdigger said many of the presenters could tell from students’ reactions that they were making a positive impact on those in attendance and it looked like all were having a good time.

She said that the children who saw chickens hatching in the Skyline Animal Science room asked if they could hatch chicks in their own classroom next year.

Newdigger said her passion for Kansas agriculture runs deep and she plans to pursue a major in ag communications and journalism. She would like to help independent farmers and ranchers around the country by focusing on marketing. She currently has a podcast on Spotify called “Cali’s Corner” where she brings knowledge of agriculture to her listeners, including how agriculture is different in different areas. She noted that farming in the Gyp Hills of Kansas is very different than farming in the Flint Hills. She said her love of agriculture was the impetus for doing what she could to make sure Kids Ag Day was a success this year.