April 21, 2011
Videos teach children about farms
Spafford farmer Chris Fesko has been teaching children about farming for years, both through educational programs on her farm and DVDs she has made, and now those DVDs are available at Cortland Free Library.
Fesko’s videos guide youngsters through all aspects of farming, from the birth of an animal, to the different types of machinery used on farms.
Fesko, who has a master’s degree in education, said she loves grasping teachable moments that constantly present themselves.
“Children are born with a vacuum. I want to fill that vacuum with correct information,” Fesko said.
For example, the video of a colt’s birth shows children the reality of animals being born.
“Babies are not in the mommy’s tummy, they are in a placenta,” Fesko said, adding that one mother called her to praise her for expanding her 3-year-old child’s vocabulary to include the word “placenta.”
Fesko owns a 2,000-acre farm with her husband, Rick.
The videos she produced are being distributed to libraries throughout Cortland, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca counties as part of a $5,000 grant the New York Agricultural Land Trust received this year from the J.M. McDonald Foundation of Cortland. The grant aims to connect children to agriculture, said Thomas Larson, executive director of the New York Agricultural Land Trust.
Fesko said she wants to impress upon children how much fun owning a farm can be, as well as how challenging it is.
“It is the best place to learn because it is hands-on. All those things you learn in textbooks don’t mean a thing if you can’t apply it to real life,” Fesko said.
Five sets of the DVDs are available at the library. Each disc has nine videos.
In addition to the Cortland Free Library, Larson said he gave one set of videos to the Cortland Youth Center and may distribute them to after-school programs in Homer and Cortland.
“It is important to get kids connected to anything when they are younger and if they are connected to agriculture they will have more appreciation for it when they get older,” Larson said Wednesday while sitting at a table in the children’s room at the Cortland Free Library.
The idea for educational videos grew from a stranger’s mistake in the early 1990s. A woman stopped at the Feskos’ farm and asked to take a picture of a “cow,” pointing to her black-and-white pinto horse.
The half-hour videos are used by teachers in the classroom and by parents during car rides, Fesko said.
Fesko also developed a “discovery center” at the farm, essentially a barn turned into classrooms, which school children tour throughout the school year.
“I expose children to the real thing so they ask questions and tickle their curiosity and want to know information,” Fesko said.
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