MTSU agritourism ‘Harvest Handbags’ project brings joy, agriculture to 80 Campus School students

It was hard to judge who had the most fun — a group of MTSU agritourism students who prepared agriculture-related “Harvest Handbags” or the 80 Homer Pittard Campus School first graders and teachers who received the autumn ag bags full of goodies.

The 13 college students couldn’t plan for the annual holiday visit with Santa in the Tennessee Livestock Center in early December, as instructor Alanna Vaught was forced to cancel because of COVID-19 concerns early in the semester.

So, led by Lily Steed, a sophomore from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and others, they carried agriculture to the Rutherford County School that has been a teacher-training partner with MTSU for 90-plus years.

The MTSU School of Agriculture crew provided handheld pumpkins and stickers to make pumpkin faces, fun crafts, bags of shelled corn for counting, a student-driven video, bookmarks, coloring books, a book for the teachers and more.

The entire project “was a lot of fun,” said Steed, 19, who grew up at Circle S Farms in Wilson County. “Overall, it was a good experience. Everyone worked great together.”

The MTSU students created a 3½-minute video. Steed said “the entire class had a part — speaking, editing or filming it on campus.”

Vaught said her students “once again stepped up and did a terrific job.”

They all wanted to personally deliver it — and see the children’s faces — but COVID kept that from happening. Campus School secretary Anna Ingrum met Vaught and a handful of students at the back loading dock. A health and safety protocol meant quarantining the bags for 72 hours.

“It was such a wonderful surprise to receive the Harvest Handbags from MTSU’s agritourism class this year,” said first grade teacher Anne Mayes. “My students were thrilled. Dr. Vaught and her students clearly put a great deal of thought into what would be engaging to my children and what would help them learn more about agriculture in Tennessee.”

“More importantly, they learned lots of facts about farming and all the ways we depend on our local farmers each day,” Mayes added. “I also appreciated the wealth of teacher resources that were included in my bag and the read-aloud book on pumpkins that I could share with my class.”

Angela Fuller said her class “really enjoyed the corn for counting in groups of tens, decorating the pumpkins as jack-o-lanterns, reviewing the life cycle of pumpkins and learning about how it compares to the life cycle of corn.”

“The class favorite was decorating the leaf that changed colors when they colored on it,” Fuller added. “I want to thank them for providing our class with such fun and engaging materials to close out our pumpkin unit.”

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