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August 01, 2011   Email to Friend 

Little "PEEPS" Flock To Poultry Science Camp
Jillian Clair

Skila Thompson, a third-grader from Tallassee, said her favorite part of the day was holding the chicks. She said she is interested in learning more about poultry science after attending PEEPS camp.
Twenty-five hands shot in the air as a unified "MEEE!" boomed from a classroom in the poultry science building at Auburn University after Dr. Don Connor asked a room full of third- and fourth-graders, "Who likes to eat?"

The question was the start of a day of discovery for a group of kids who traveled to Auburn from all over the state to learn about chickens on a hot Thursday in June.

Connor, director of Auburn's Poultry Science Department, created the Poultry and Egg Experiences for Prospective Students (PEEPS) camp last year with the help of his faculty and staff as a recruiting tool, but as the program has evolved, Connor said he thinks the PEEPS camp serves an even bigger purpose than simply sparking an interest in studying poultry science at Auburn.

"I think if you talk to kids in junior high and high school, you'll get to the reality pretty quick that they don't know a lot about agriculture," Connor said. "Specifically, they don't know a lot about poultry, and yet we're trying to recruit those students--we just felt like there was a need to plant some seeds with younger ages and give them a little background in agriculture."

There were three sessions of PEEPS camps: first- and second-graders, third- and fourth-graders and fifth- through seventh-graders.

College students helped the camp's coordinator, Ashley Pangle, teach the attendees about different aspects of poultry science. The children were able to hold week-old chicks, tour the Southeastern Raptor Center, watch ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen, dissect a chicken heart, take a tour of the poultry farm, visit Jordan-Hare Stadium and participate in several other hands-on activities.

"I love chickens, so I like seeing them love chickens," said Clara Fisher, an A.U. sophomore in poultry science. "I think it's important, because it shows them where their food comes from. They really got a lot of hands-on experience, and they also got to see some fun things like the Raptor Center and the stadium, so that makes them want to come back and learn more about Auburn."

Robert Bruce, a rising fourth grader from Montgomery, didn't have any problems with dissecting a chicken heart, an activity that some of the campers weren't sure about at first.

"I had fun today," Bruce said. "I hope I can come back next year. I love the chickens."

Connor said he thinks the camp will make a difference in the way the children who attended view agriculture and the food they eat.

"I hope they've gained some appreciation that you don't just run to a fast food restaurant or a grocery store to get your food," Connor said. "There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes. In particular, there's some farmer somewhere producing that food." Connor said he believes the College of Agriculture has a responsibility to teach the public, as well as its own students, about the importance of agriculture, and PEEPS camp plays a role in fulfilling that responsibility.

"I want the generation coming up to understand that's an important part of our state and our country--people farming and producing food for us," Connor said. "We have an obligation here at the university to not only teach college students, but also to get it out into the society as a whole to let them know how important agriculture is to everyday life."

Visit www.ag.auburn.edu/poul for information about future PEEPS camps and other activities for prospective students.



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