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Mobile agricultural science lab makes first visit to a Ceres school
Cesar Chavez Junior High School students became the first in Ceres recently to be treated to the Ag in Motion program offered by the Ag Science Center of Modesto.

Ag in Motion, a 53-foot state-of-the-art mobile trailer classroom, was unveiled in late June of this year by the National Ag Science Center in Modesto.

The free mobile classroom experience features 20 laboratory stations, complete with microscopes and lesson plans designed around the seventh grade science curriculum for California schools. The lab can hold up to 36 students and one teacher.

For students at Cesar Chavez the experience in the ag trailer was a break from the classroom environment.

"This is really a field trip that stays on campus," said Michele Laverty, director of the National Ag Science Center. "They are getting to do things they would not be able to do in the classroom. It gets them excited about careers in agriculture."

The goal of AIM is to introduce agriculture into what seventh graders are learning in their curriculum and to display the many ag-related career opportunities in the Central Valley.

There are five labs held inside AIM and labs are selected by a classroom's teacher or school. Labs are taught by a certified seventh-grade science teacher and the curriculum includes bug anatomy, light with chromatography, seed dispersal, a DNA extraction from a strawberry and plant identification. Following a lab lesson, which is held in the same amount of time as a regular class period, students watch a short video about ag-related career opportunities.

Before the mobile unit arrived, the center supplied teachers on the campus with kits. Students were taught how to crush strawberries in plastic bags, and then use a salt-soap solution, ethanol and a filter to complete the process.

Cesar Chavez teacher Brittney Crocker praised the AIM program and its lessons as fitting well with state standards for science instruction in the seventh grade. "This fits in well because in science they are learning of animal and plant cells," said Crocker. "This is a preview about genetics and genes."

In the past year the project raised nearly $150,000 to make the trailer a reality. The majority of the money has come from private and corporate donations. Some of the largest donations came from Wal-Mart and Rabobank, which together donated nearly $97,000 for the trailer.

"Ag In Motion is a remarkable offering for schools and students throughout the Central Valley, particularly in this tough economy," said Wal-Mart Senior Vice President of the Pacific Division Kimberly Sentovich.

For more information, visit the Stanislaus Ag Science Center (an interactive museum at the Modesto Junior College West Campus) website at: