As a part of the symbiotic partnership between the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) and UConn Extension and supported by USDA NIFA’s Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP), tribal youth engage in outreach opportunities designed to educate students about the origin of food and fiber. Programming during summer 2022 included a series of STEM activity kits and field-trip experiences that promoted engagement with agricultural sciences in production settings.
A total of 250 ‘Adventures in Agriculture’ activity kits were distributed to the MPTN Department of Education & Recreation to be completed within
the Parks and Recreation camp program or to be taken home to assemble with household members. Five unique kit sets focused on entomology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), wool production, aquaculture, animal identification and record keeping, and plant development. In addition to the materials and instructional videos necessary to complete the activities, kits were accompanied with Farming Connection Cards that discussed real-life applications and agricultural principles.
In early August, 29 MTPN youth gathered at Meechooôk Farm to engage in a UConn 4-H ruminant digestion simulation activity that involved the use of spaghetti, pop rocks, and soda. Students learned about the diet and eating behavior of cattle as well as the inner workings of their compartmented stomach. MPTN Department of Agriculture Director Jeremy Whipple and Meechooôk Farm Manager Cassius Spears, Sr. led an educational tour around the farm that involved a visit with the pigs and cattle and a peek inside the hydroponic high tunnels, where food is grown to support the tribal community.
Joined by UConn Extension faculty and staff persons, 15 youth and five chaperones from MPTN visited the UConn Storrs campus to learn about opportunities in higher education. The group participated in a tour led by Lodewick Visitors Center student staff that featured a trip to UConn’s Native American Cultural Center. The group also visited the horses and heifers, ate lunch at a dining hall, and were able to partake in tours of the floriculture greenhouses and the Kellogg Dairy Center. Before heading back to the MPTN Community Center, the group enjoyed ice cream from the UConn Dairy Bar.
Exposing youth to food and fiber systems with Extension outreach has the potential to spark a lifelong interest in learning and in agriculture while encouraging youth to contribute to their community. This programming aims to inspire future agriculturalists and informed decision makers as we work together towards a more sustainable future.
Financial support for this work was provided by the USDA NIFA Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP Award 2017-41580-26950). Learn more about the program at https://s.uconn.edu/mptn.
UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:
- Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
- Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
- Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion through anti-racist approaches
- Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
- Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
Article and photos by Sara Tomis