Some may think that in today’s world of on-demand TV, smartphones, social media, and video games, the younger generations are less excited about getting out in nature and playing in the dirt. That is not the case for Caswell County elementary schoolers.
Since 2021, Piedmont Community College, in collaboration with Caswell County 4-H and Cool Beans, has helped local students develop an appreciation for agriculture with hands-on activities through the BLAST! Program.
BLAST! stands for Breakthrough Learning in Agriculture Science and Technology, and, so far, 175 students have participated in the program. Each month, PCC’s Agribusiness Technology faculty and students, 4-H staff, and Cool Beans representatives co-lead an afterschool agriculture activity for students at Stoney Creek Elementary, North Elementary, and the Caswell County Homeschool Association.
During each afterschool enrichment session, students participate in various hands-on activities related to agriculture, literacy, math, and agriculture careers. Students built community gardens at each site, planted garlic and onions to be harvested in the spring, explored different types of beans and seeds, made pumpkin pie in a bag, tasted farm-fresh produce, and much more.
“It’s such a great feeling to see so many young residents of Caswell County excited about this,” said Emily Buchanan, Director of Caswell Campus Operations at PCC. “All the participating students are always eager to learn something new related to agriculture, and each time they all return excited to learn even more.”
Buchanan helped start the program, offered exclusively in Caswell County, under the direction of PCC’s President, Dr. Pamela Sengal, whose focus on the future of agriculture continues to be a driving force for development within the county. Eventually, the program will be housed at the future Center for Educational and Agricultural Development (CEAD) campus in Pelham, NC.
“Agriculture is part of Caswell County’s heritage, and there are many ways students can have a fun, sustainable career in agriculture right here at home,” Buchanan said. “The youth of Caswell County is excited and curious about agriculture, and we need to continue to foster this love of learning in the field with them as much as possible.”
Currently, the BLAST! program is grant-funded. Interest in the program continues to grow, and its leaders plan to expand to all four Caswell County elementary schools by 2024.
To learn more about BLAST! or volunteer, contact Emily Buchanan at (336) 694-8042 or email email@example.com.