Iowa's Dairy Story Helps Students Understand Importance of Dairy Products

James C. Hosch, Clayton County Extension Education Director


Many young people today do not understand how food reaches their table. They do not have many opportunities to witness animal agriculture, to discuss the economic importance of food industries to this region of Iowa, or to learn about careers in animal science. Too often the discussions within their classrooms focus on the environmental challenges of the livestock industry and they hear the negative side of eating dairy products.


Iowa's Dairy Story started in 2002. Now, there have been nearly 3,000 youth (3rd, 4th & 5th graders) participating. The curriculum developed and the day-long field trip to Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation Center has helped them understand the importance of building skeletal strength with dairy foods in their diet. They also have an opportunity to learn that dairy foods are produced in this region of Iowa on family-based dairy farms and that the industry supports the economy with a variety career jobs.

While at the Dairy Center, the youth learn the history of dairying, how ruminant digestive systems function, the significant state and national milk-producing regions, the seven breeds, and the health impacts of consuming dairy foods. They see how cows are milked and what happens in a special needs barn. Each group makes home-made ice cream and spins a Milk Cart Quiz to re-enforce their learning.

The excitement grows as they put on biosecurity boots for the barn tour. The sites, smells, and sounds of an active dairy set inquisitive minds in motion with a multitude questions. They have an appreciation that milk is not just purchased in the store -- it comes from cows, on farms, within an industry that supports families and communities.


Life skills evaluations completed by youth participating in the Iowaís Dairy Story program showed:

1. 90% plan to make more healthy food choices than before.
2. 90% are interested in learning more about cows and the industry that is so important to the region.
3. 89% felt they listened carefully to what was being said.
4. 90% had the opportunity they needed to ask questions and receive answers that were understandable to them.
5. 92% liked the opportunity to work as teams to make ice cream and study the historical artifacts.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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