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An Eastern Kentucky University anthropology class is supporting agricultural literacy efforts in Perry County.           

Anthropology professor Dr. Jennifer Wies collaborated with Perry County School District officials to secure a $10,000 grant from EKU’s Center for Appalachian Regional Engagement and Stewardship (CARES). Students enrolled in her Applied Anthropology class will travel to Holiday Farms in Rowdy on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to evaluate the annual Perry County Schools Farm Day. Under Wies’ direction, the students will observe third-graders attending the event from all nine Perry County elementary schools and analyze the school district’s pre- and post-test instruments to assess learning outcomes.

It’s not just the Perry County students who’ll benefit, though.

“Working with the Perry County school system to conduct this evaluation is a vital partnership that furthers learning outcomes for EKU students,” Wies said. “This applied learning activity provides an immersive, hands-on experience that enables students to put anthropology in action. These applied activities result in greater comprehension of the core disciplinary tenets of anthropology and better retention of course information.”

The work, Wies added, can be a “mechanism for personal transformation” among her students. “There is a significant amount of learning about oneself and others that becomes visible when students participate in a project that demonstrates how local and global forces shape individuals and communities and their sense of place.”

The Perry County third-graders attending the event learn the origins of their food by rotating through grain, vegetable, honey, dairy, livestock and egg education stations. “The purpose is to teach youth where their food comes from, encourage a healthy lifestyle at a young age and familiarize students with fresh, whole food and give them an opportunity to be a part of growing food,” Wies said. “If kids can get excited about healthy food, growing their own food, and buying locally, the enthusiasm may translate to the adults around them and encourage a new overall outlook on healthy living.

“The long-term goal of the project is to instill healthy habits at an early age, teach environmental stewardship, and introduce hands-on learning that supports common educational standards.”

The Perry County Farm Days project is just one of five community-based projects funded this year by CARES. By design, all the initiatives include partners at EKU and focus on one or more of the five following areas: economic and workforce development, education, environment, collaborative government, and health, wellness and safety.