A Day in the Field

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By Cat Gowan and Tatiana Giraldo

Yolimar, an AHB Extension professional, stands in the center of a group of Latino parents and their children explaining how to use the green and black balloons to play a game that will teach them about bioenergy.

Families participate in the “Carbon Cycle Game” to learn about differences between using fossil fuels and biofuels for transportation.

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday in early July, AHB held two extremely successful field tours for the Latino community at the Pilchuck Demonstration Farm. Over 75 children and adults came out to learn about bioenergy amid the poplar trees!

The events were designed with families in mind. It was a treat to see children enjoying time outside while adults were engaged by presentations nearby.

On the left, Cat Gowan and 3 UW student volunteers work with two Latino boys on an experiment. In the image on the right, benath tents that were set up in the poplar field, a speaker is standing and talking to a large group of seated adults about renewable energy.

UW student volunteers from the NASA Space Grant Consortium lead youth in a hands-on fermentation experiment (left), while adults learn about renewable energy and Extension (right).

Outreach specialists from the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium and Snohomish County Extension 4H Program came with games and energy-related experiments for children and young adults. Meanwhile, the adults learned from AHB Extension and knowledgeable community members about where energy comes from, how planes can fly on biofuel, how poplars can be used for biofuels and bioproducts, and what services Extension has to offer.

Everyone came together to play a carbon cycle game, where people representing oil refineries, biofuel sources, and transportation methods passed balloons to illustrate the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy.

On the left, children line up for Yolimar to exchange their black balloons for green ones. On the right, Cat and several kids try to hold onto the black balloons as they overflow their container.

Yolimar Rivera Vasquez and Tatiana Giraldo facilitated the Carbon Cycle Game by handing off “plant-based carbon” (green balloons) to the “biofuel sources” (participants with green name tags) (left). Cat Gowan helped by holding “carbon” (black balloons) in the “atmosphere” (pop-up bin), where the carbon ended up after being emitted by an “airplane” (participant with yellow name tag) (right).

For the last part of the event, AHB Extension led everyone on a tour of the demonstration farm, teaching about how the trees are grown and harvested and how the farm is being used by researchers.

The entire field tour group: extension volunteers and Latino community members and their kids standing/sitting in front of the poplar trees.

After touring the poplar farm, the group came together for a photo.

The response to both of the field tours was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees appreciated the location and information. “It was truly a great educational experience to learn about this topic. It was not just a talk but a direct experience with the nature and benefits of it,” shared a participant on a post-event evaluation.

Additionally, attendees enjoyed the community feel of the event, saying that, “personally I liked it, because apart from knowing how to use renewable energy, about poplar trees and about its uses, we were able to share with other people.”

The response to the field tours made the Extension Team excited to plan other Spanish-language events. One attendee requested more events like this one designed for kids AND adults, asking for ideas on how to work together on energy issues with their children. Consequently, the Extension Team is currently organizing a “Bioenergy Carnival” for November.