UACES Facebook Using their (soy)bean: Students from 15 schools take part in virtual field trip
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Using their (soy)bean: Students from 15 schools take part in virtual field trip

September 30, 2014 

Fast facts

  • More than a dozen schools registered to take part in Virtual Field Trip broadcast from Bono, Arkansas
  • Many of those taking part had never been in a soybean field

(577 words)

LITTLE ROCK -- Hundreds of students from 15 schools statewide took part in a virtual field trip on Tuesday, learning about microscopic nematodes and their effects on plants, animals and humans.

Using Wi-Fi hot spots in the field, the Soybean Science Challenge brought the interactive lesson live from Bono, Arkansas, in Craighead County, from the farm of Shannon Davis. Students could participate by typing questions into a chat box and having them answered by an onsite team that included Terry Kirkpatrick, a researcher and extension nematologist; Randy Chlapecka and Ray Benson Mississippi and Jackson County extension staff chairs and Davis.

Many of those taking part said they had never been in a soybean field.

Nila R., a senior at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts, was among those attending. She is currently researching the growth of biofuel corps using a photovoltaic-powered drip irrigation system.

“When my instructor told me about the virtual soybean trip, I immediately wanted to be a part of it because soybean, interestingly, is a major food crop that has been implemented in producing biofuel as well,” she said. “The event was a fun way to teach a class. I found it unique in the aspect that it was a real-time class where we could actually interact with actual farmers, researchers, and scientists. I definitely learned a lot about soybean and nematodes, and I would love participating in an event like this again!”

Melissa Donham, a science teacher at Little Rock Central High School, said “we chose to participate since our students are urban and most have never been on a farm, nor are they knowledgeable about various careers and opportunities that might be available in agriculture. 

“Having a nematologist available to explain and answer questions was unique,” she said, as was having “the experts present to contribute to the conversation.”

The point of the virtual field trip was to introduce students to the science behind agriculture.

“Agriculture is exciting and it’s an amazing field,” said Karen Ballard, project manager for the Soybean Science Challenge and professor-program and staff development for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “There are incredible careers for young people in Arkansas. They don’t realize the job opportunities.”

Ballard learned a lesson too, “The one thing I came away from this, I didn’t realize that education could be news.”

The challenge was produced by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Hosts for the lesson include Davis and Terry Kirkpatrick, extension nematologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

The virtual field trip focused on nematode parasites and their impact on soybeans.  

Schools that participated in the virtual field trip were statewide digital course provider Virtual Arkansas and:

    1. Alma High School in Crawford County
    2. Alpena High School in Boone County
    3. Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science & Arts in Garland County
    4. Avilla Christian Academy in Saline County
    5. Caddo Hills High School in Montgomery County
    6. Gentry High School in Benton County
    7. Greene Co. Tech in Greene County 
    8. Little Rock Central High in Pulaski County
    9. Mountain Home High School, Baxter County
    10. Pocahontas High School, Randolph County
    11. Joe T. Robinson High School in Pulaski County
    12. Southeast Arkansas Education Cooperative
    13. (Springdale) Hellstern Middle School, Washington County
    14. Taylor High School, Columbia County
    15. Westside Consolidated School District in Craighead County

The broadcast is funded by a grant from the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, of which Davis is a member. 

For more information about soybean production, contact your county extension office or visit or

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

By Mary Hightower
U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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