MADRAS, Ore. – A little boy stepped forward to peer into Jeremiah Dung’s microscope.
“Do you think these will be rough or smooth under microscope?” asked Dung, an Oregon State University Extension plant pathologist as he scooped up the allspice berries the boy selected from Dung’s table at Benny Bash, an annual celebration of Jefferson County Extension and agricultural research.
“Smooth,” answered Trevyn Hatathi, who was celebrating his seventh birthday.
Dung placed the berries on the microscope stage and Trevyn looked through the eyepieces.
“Rough!” he responded. He started to look at the other pieces of fruit, sprigs and clippings Dung displayed on his table to show people what plants look like when they can be seen up close. Really up close.
“That’s cool,” Trevyn said. “Can I try the sunflower now?”
Trevyn and his little brother Takoda, 5, spent 10 minutes learning about plants while their mother, Shayla Smith, sat nearby at a picnic table. Smith, who lives 15 miles up the road on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, said she wasn’t surprised by the boys’ curiosity.
“They love science,” she said.
“Microscopes are something that kids that age aren’t exposed to that often,” said Dung, an OSU assistant professor based at the Central Oregon Agricultural Research and Extension Center (COAREC).
“If you pick the right specimens, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about science and biology,” he said. “When you get really close up, you see things you haven’t noticed before.”
Getting a close-up look at Jefferson County Extension and agricultural research is one of the goals of Benny Bash, held at Sahalee Park in downtown Madras. The event, which includes a 5-K run, provides educational activities in a family atmosphere, said Carol Tollefson, COAREC director.
“OSU Extension has been in Jefferson County for more than a century and Benny Bash gives people a chance to see all of the programs we have to offer, from 4-H to master beekeeping to nutrition, in addition to the agricultural research that is invaluable to our growers,” Tollefson said.
A few feet away from Dung’s display, children took turns riding the Blender Bike, a stationary bike that powers a blender to make smoothies using recipes created by Food Hero, an initiative of Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).
Several times during the day, Olivia Davis, SNAP-Ed Outreach program coordinator for Jefferson County and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Extension, tossed blueberries and tofu into the blender and held it down as kids pedaled. Then she poured the tofu-berry blend into small paper cups, which were then picked up by little hands.
“How does tofu taste?” asked one boy, who knows Davis from her visits to his elementary school.
“You just drank it,” Davis said. “It’s a plant-based protein source. It’s made out of soybeans. It doesn’t have much of a taste. You combine it with other food.”
Across the park, children and teen-agers shot off ruler-sized paper-and-plastic rockets from a launcher made by Jon Gandy, Jefferson County 4-H program coordinator. The rockets went about 30 feet in the air before tumbling back down to earth.
“This is a big hit at Camp Tumbleweed,” said Gandy, referring to the spring break camp offered for Oregon 4-H youth in central Oregon. “The kids go crazy for it.”