Gregory Hostetter, the Deputy Secretary for Animal Health & Food Safety at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and State Representative Michael B. Carroll (D-118, Luzerne/Lackawanna counties) visited the Pittston Area Intermediate Center/Middle School Tuesday to watch students as they used the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture – Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab to learn about the importance of agriculture and the food on their table.

The Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, in conjunction with the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce and Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, recently received a $10,000 grant from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Pennsylvania that it is using to bring the mobile lab to four elementary/middle schools in the Pittston Area, Wyoming Area, North Schuylkill and Shenandoah Valley school districts.

Hostetter said, “This mobile agricultural lab is great because it educates children on what agriculture is all about. It’s a hands-on learning experience and the students can do workshops. This combination of hands-on learning and science is very important. I’m sure the students will remember what they learn in this lab for years to come.”

The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Pennsylvania is to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children. Patricia F. Stella, President of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce and an owner/operator of 11 McDonald’s restaurants in the area, said it was exciting to see so many organizations come together on this project. “It’s wonderful to see so many organizations working together to support the education of our children. Through our grant programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we award more than $200,000 annually to local organizations to provide a brighter future for our children and help them lead happier, healthier and more productive lives,” said Stella.

During his remarks on Tuesday, Carroll extended a special thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities for their support of the project to bring the lab to Northeastern Pennsylvania. “Having this unit here is very important because it provides a hands-on education and helps the students be enthusiastic about learning. The children are getting direct interaction with agriculture that they don’t normally get here in Pittston. We rely every day on the the productivity of Pennsylvania agriculture, so it’s important for the students to see this,” Carroll said.

Patricia Lenahan, Executive Director of the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, said, “The Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment board is grateful to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Pennsylvania for providing us with this grant that will help so many students across Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

The Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab will travel to each of the four school districts for one week, where they will offer between five and six 50-minute lab experiment classes per day. Students at the Pittston Area Intermediate/Middle School began using the lab on Monday and will conclude their time with it on Friday. The lab will visit Wyoming Area Primary Center beginning on March 13, Shenandoah Valley Elementary School on May 8 and North Schuylkill Elementary School on May 15.

Kevin Booth, Superintendent of the Pittston Area School District, praised the work of the L/S WIB and the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce in bringing the lab to the district. “We jumped at the opportunity to have this lab come to our district and boost the students’ interest in science. One of my goals as superintendent is to increase the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experience for students. This is a great way to get them interested in science. The students have been very interested and engaged with the lab so far. There is so much for them to get their hands on and experience.”

Pittston Area Middle School Principal Patrick Bilbow said the students were excited to learn about science in a way that is different from the traditional classroom experience. “The first group of students that used the lab were extremely excited and energized about it. It’s a great experience for them. They enjoy any opportunity you can give them that is different than the normal classroom routine.”

During the mobile lab’s visit to the four schools, more than 3,000 students in first through eighth grades will use the lab to complete science experiments that will help them gain a better understanding of the scientific process and an increasing awareness of agriculture’s importance in their lives. The 40-foot trailer has 12 lab stations where students work in groups of two to solve a problem as they form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, collect data and draw conclusions. Through the experiments, students will learn about various aspects of agriculture, including Pennsylvania’s primary commodities, the environment, biotechnology, nutrition, food and fiber.

Lenahan said, “Pennsylvania’s future economic and workforce development are critically tied to our communities’ ability to meet the early learning needs of our children. We are particularly interested in engaging girls and non-traditional students in this program. Early exposure to STEM subjects counteract the destructive and persistent belief that math and science are for boys. By investing in our young students now, including young girls and non-traditional students, we can build the workforce we need to keep our industries competitive in the years ahead.”

The mobile lab is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and all courses are aligned with Pennsylvania Department of Education academic standards in environment, ecology, science and technology.

Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture is a charitable organization of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau whose mission is to preserve and promote agriculture, the largest of the Commonwealth’s industries. Officials from the organization said that, despite agriculture being Pennsylvania’s leading industry with one in seven jobs related to the industry, “today’s students don’t make the connection between agriculture and the food on their table. When asked where their food comes from, they will say it’s the grocery store or the drive-through window at the local fast food establishment. The continued health of this industry is paramount to the social, economic and environmental fiber of our existence.”

Ag Lab donation 1

The Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, in conjunction with the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce and Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, recently received a $10,000 grant from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Pennsylvania that it is using to bring the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture – Mobile Agriculture Education Science Lab to four elementary/middle schools in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Pictured during the check presentation are, from left: Kevin Booth, Superintendent of the Pittston Area School District; State Representative Michael B. Carroll; Gregory Hostetter, Deputy Secretary for Animal Health & Food Safety at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Patricia F. Stella, President of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce and McDonald’s owner/operator; Christina Mueller, representing Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern PA; Patricia Lenahan, Executive Director of the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board; Trina Moss, Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board Project Manager for Job Seekers and Employer Services; and Elizabeth Dal Santo, representing Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern PA.