DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the most popular places inside the gates of the 2016 Iowa State Fair is the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center.
Organizers estimate that about two-thirds of all state fair visitors go the center.
The 2007 Iowa State Fair marked the debut of the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center and Christensen Farms Hall. The agricultural education exhibit features live births of various species including cows, sows, nanny goats, and ewes.
The room is filled with constant “ahhs” and “ohhs” from spectators as they see the baby animals, some born just hours ago.
“This guy is five days old,” says Madison a student volunteer from Southeast Polk High School. “This goat’s name is Jack.”
Madison is part of the Future Farmers of America program at Southeast Polk High School, which staffs exhibits inside the building. Over the course of the fair, over 330 students will help keep the booth running.
Matt Eddy is the advisor for the FFA program at Southeast Polk High School and he says this gives his students an opportunity they normally wouldn’t be able to get.
“We have a large number of students who have career interests in agriculture but a lot them don’t get the hands-on experience needed to learn,” says Eddy. “I’m glad these kids can learn and we can help out here at the learning center too.”
The students will get invaluable experience during the 10-day stretch.
“We enjoy helping others learn more about agriculture – especially animals since it’s so important to our state,” said Eddy.
When the fair is over the learning will continue for the students.
“Advanced animal science class managed the beef cow herd year-round and bring them back to next fair. We had twins this morning. They will head home soon,” says Eddy.
Southeast Polk High School partners with the Iowa State Fair to care for the herd of cattle.
“They own, we take care of them,” says Eddy. “It is nice to introduce these kids to something this unique. Once you get them involved, they are hooked.”
If you want to visit the Animal Learning Center they are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the fair.