Farm goes virtual to teach Ont. students

DRESDEN, Ont. — An Ontario farm couple is sending a real message to elementary children through virtual hookups.

Judy and Doug Krall, who produce eggs and grow crops, use computer programs such as Skype and FaceTime to communicate live with students through smartphones and tablets.

Biosecurity is definitely not an issue.

“This is a great opportunity. It’s a great way to get kids involved with farming,” Judy Krall said.

“I keep telling people, as farmers we’ve failed to educate two or three generations about what we do on the farm. This is a way to help correct that.”

The program is open to Grade 3 to 6 students.

Krall, who is president of her area’s Agriculture in the Classroom association, starts by having a class watch a short film about her family’s farm. The children follow up by asking questions.

Then Krall and her husband host a virtual tour of their farm to answer those questions. These last around 90 minutes.

Doug has become a bit of a star in the process.

“The kids get upset if they don’t get a chance to see Farmer Doug,” Judy said.

The Kralls have been handling 20 question or more per class.

For instance, Judy has been asked why she became an egg producer — she married into the business — and how the yolk, white and shell of eggs are formed.

Eggs, incidentally, are built from the inside out starting with the yolk. The shell, made from calcium, takes about 20 hours to form with the shell pigment being the last addition. The entire process takes about 22 hours.

Krall said the program ties into classroom curriculum in a number of areas, including science and math. For example, students may be asked to calculate the weight of 15 dozen eggs, which is the amount contained in one box.

She said she’s worked with a dozen different classrooms over the past two years, most within an hour’s drive of her home near Sarnia.

Most of the visits have been about eggs, but the Kralls have also talked about their field crop production.

Now the family is attracting widespread attention, with their efforts recently featured in Massey Ferguson’s Farm Life magazine.

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