By LINDA M. LINONIS
First- through fourth- graders learned the ins and outs of farm life in the land Down Under — Australia — during a two-day AgVenture Camp at Mill Creek MetroParks Farm.
The camp this week featured games, story time, crafts and, best of all, visiting with exotic animals including Ratchet, a kangaroo; Sophie, a wallaby; and Esther, a camel.
Brenda Markley, agriculture education program manager at MetroParks Farm, said 27 children attended the two-day event. The AgVenture Camp is new to the farm, being hosted for the first time. Markley said she visited Australia about 10 years ago and thought it would be a good place to start.
Markley said the gist of the camp is to “expand children’s understanding of agriculture.” She said she wanted them “to realize there are farms all over the world but not exactly like as the ones they see here.”
Crafts, games, story time and other activities filled the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. time frame. In addition to those activities, the children toured the farm Monday and got acquainted with some Australian animals Tuesday.
Dwayne Felger of Greenford, who said he has about 50 animals, was on hand with year-old Ratchet. Markley took photos of each child by the 25-pound kangaroo. It will take Ratchet three years to be fully grown and stand from 4 to 6 feet tall.
While children petted the soft-coated Ratchet, who was squirmy in Felger’s arms and sometimes best controlled with a hold on the tail, Esther sounded like a Jurassic Park dinosaur from the confines of her trailer. The 4-month-old dromedary camel loudly voiced her desire for attention. Felger said she probably wanted a bottle of goat’s milk, which she gets twice daily.
Also visiting the farm was Sophie, a year-old wallaby, and pint-sized version of the kangaroo. They’re both marsupials, meaning the females carry the young in built-in pouches.
In addition to seeing the animals, the children decorated shoeboxes with the Australian flag and plastic boomerangs. Though they tried their hands at tossing the boomerangs and hoped for them to return, only one made the return trip. They also made colorful tie-dye T-shirts and played a version of cricket.
Children baked Anzac cookies, called biscuits in Australia. The recipe includes rolled oats and shredded coconut. Markley also explained to children that while they might eat a peanut-butter sandwich, their Australian counterparts would snack on vegamite, a protein-yeast product similar to peanut butter.
Jared Giovannone of Austintown said he enjoyed petting the kangaroo, which is his favorite animal from Australia, and liked the wagon ride on the farm. The 7-year-old said he learned about the dingo, a wild dog of Australia.
Ava Wolfe, 8, said she came to the camp because it sounded interesting. The Boardman girl said her favorite parts were “stuff about the dingo” and the boomerang.
All in all, the children had a g’day times two.
The 402-acre working farm showcases agriculture through educational programs, tours, display areas and a children’s playroom. For information on MetroParks Farm activities, call 330-533-7572 or visit www.millcreekmetroparks.com