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Middle and high school students learn about agriculture in Poultry 101 program

February 26, 2020

It's not often that middle and high school students learn about science on a college campus, but more than 100 local students had that opportunity Feb. 1 on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus.

Designated Poultry 101, the program teaches students about the area poultry industry through hands-on laboratory activities. The event is aimed at students interested in a career in agriculture.

Made possible by a grant from the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, the fifth annual event had a record 120 students attend. Groups came from across Georgia, including one from as far away as Pierce County, almost a five-hour drive.

Dr. Linda Purvis, event organizer and assistant professor of biology, sees the day as a public outreach and community service opportunity. She reaches out to organizations at schools such as the National FFA Organization (formerly called Future Farmers of America) and 4-H Clubs.

"The overall goal was to get the word out about our poultry science program and recruit students interested in poultry," she said. "We have successfully recruited five students directly from their participation in the event, and more and more high school agricultural classes are familiar with our program and promote it."

Available on the Gainesville Campus, the Associate of Science degree with a pathway in agriculture-poultry science allows students to learn about various aspects of the industry. Students in the program take a number of science and business courses to help prepare them for their careers. Purvis knows Poultry 101 can be a life-changing day for students interested in the program.

"We allow both middle and high school students to participate, and we hope they learn about poultry, stay interested in agriculture, and consider attending UNG," she said.

Purvis explained that students learned about fundamental aspects of the poultry industry such as carcass judging. Carcass judging involves examining meat to ensure there are no broken bones, or other defects so it is ready for purchase at the store. These practices are a necessity to protect everyday consumers.

Additionally, students learned about U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for food safety and egg quality.

However, their day wasn't just spent inside the classroom. They toured the Gainesville Campus and heard about the UNG Admissions process.

Assisting with the day's events were six undergraduate students, two UNG alumni, and 10 faculty members in the Biology Department. Poultry Club President Taylor Phillips, a junior from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a degree in business management, said the day is dually beneficial because she and her fellow student volunteers gain valuable leadership skills.

"My favorite part of the day was getting to help the new students who have never done this before and have never touched a chicken get this experience," she said. "This event has helped me to become more confident in teaching others and being able to explain concepts in different ways, and motivating others to try different things."

Future events pertaining to agricultural science include a Career in Agriculture Day from noon to 1 p.m. March 10 in the Robinson Ballroom on the Gainesville Campus. The program will have free food and is open to students from every major. Purvis encourages students who may be interested in internships and career opportunities in the agricultural industry to attend.

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