Oregon State University Wheat Breeding Program Hosts Jefferson County 3rd Grader Outreach Program

The Crop and Soil Science Department’s Wheat Breeding program hosted a group of third graders from Jefferson County as part of their recent field trip to visit Oregon State University’s Corvallis Campus on June 1st. Their visit was facilitated by Jon Gandy, the 4-H Program Coordinator through OSU Extension. This is the fourth year the Wheat Breeding program has been able to host the field trip group.

As part of the program, we (the wheat breeding personnel) teach the students about wheat: how and where it is grown, what it is used for, the different market classes, and a little bit about some of the traits wheat breeders and growers are looking for. We set up four stations for the students to experience different stages of wheat production. At one station, the students are shown greenhouse-grown wheat plants at a variety of growth stages, from seedling to fully mature plant. At another, they can inspect bins of wheat from different market classes (soft white, hard white, and hard red) and choose a handful to put through a small mill. Then we have them observe the different qualities of the flour that comes out. At the next station, they get a chance to have two small balls of dough, one made from hard wheat and one from soft wheat. They can stretch and knead the dough to feel the differences in texture. Finally, they put a few seeds in petri dishes with germination paper, wet it, and seal the dish to take home and grow their own wheat plants.

As always, we had a great time with the students this year. They are always excited to learn, and the hands-on activities give us a chance to get their gears turning. The students have some acute insight, and good stories to share (related to wheat or not).

Special thanks to Joel Brown, Sahalie Ellickson, and Stephen Erickson for volunteering to assist in teaching and guiding this year.