Student Farm Club members teach youth sustainability lessons

Olivia Hort
February 14, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Student Farm Club members recently partnered with the region’s sustainable agriculture community by organizing over 30 hours of educational programming about sustainability for elementary school children. The activity was part of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) annual conference, which took place Feb. 2-4 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Children in kindergarten through fifth grade had the opportunity to learn about protecting the environment, sustainable energy, and nutrition, through activities including interactive games, crafts and discussions.

“It’s really important to our club that we find ways to support the farmers and many others who are part of our area’s food system,” said Mary Lemmon, Student Farm Club member and lead volunteer organizer.

“Education about sustainability issues is an important goal for our organization," she said. "Volunteering to run the youth track at the PASA conference is an annual opportunity for us to do just that.”

Protecting the Environment

The children watched a portion of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" followed by a discussion about the benefits of recycling and composting and how they positively impact the environment. The children created pictures out of recycled paper and magazines, and engaged in a conversation about items in their homes that could be reused or repurposed.

“It was wonderful to hear the kids’ ideas about ways to protect our environment,” said Lemmon. “They are all so innovative and smart.”

Sustainable Energy

The Seedlings Program, which hosted children in third through fifth grade, had a theme of earth, wind and water. The children created colorful pinwheels to represent a sustainable energy source followed by an activity to calculate and discover ways to reduce their carbon footprints.

“This activity really put into perspective how little changes such as walking instead of driving, or using reusable grocery bags instead of plastic, can make a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint,” said Student Farm volunteer Katie Leite.

Food Chain

The children participated in chain link games where they learned about food systems. Through the game, kids explored the interdependencies of different animals and ecosystems.

“One of my favorite activities was a game called 'Oh Dear!'” said Leite. “The kids learned how animals react to resource problems and we discussed ways they might solve those problems."

While they had a purpose of teaching the children about important sustainability issues, many of the volunteers discovered that they too had learned from the experience.

“It was such a rewarding and fun experience to work with the kids and learn new things together about sustainability and nutrition. Many of them live on farms and had important perspectives to share on the interactions between agriculture, food and the environment,” said Lemmon.

About the Student Farm Club

The interdisciplinary Sustainable Food Systems Program (SFSP) aims to make the Penn State University Park campus and food system a living laboratory for engagement in sustainable agriculture and food systems by strategically linking classroom education with experiential education, research and community outreach. Flagship components of the SFSP include a working Student Farm, a highly active Student Farm Club, and myriad opportunities for collaborations across the Penn State curriculum. Students can get involved through internships, coursework, student-led research, becoming a club member, volunteering and taking a tour of the farm. For more information visit

Last Updated September 20, 2019