Maze teaches children about food and fiber

About 2,000 school-aged children in South Carolina walked through a maze on their way toward learning about agricultural products.

Jim Frederick, Clemson University research and Extension agronomist and colleagues set up a corn maze filled with exhibits on corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center near Florence, S.C.

"I wanted it to have a ‘mazy’ component where the kids could walk through and have fun and a part where they could stop and learn about crops and the things made from them in the Clemson Tiger Paw," Frederick says. Schools, church groups, cub scouts and Girl Scouts walked through the maze.

As the kids walked through the word STUDY, they stopped at five points where they had to answer true or false based on questions they had learned in the tiger’s paw. A correct answer kept them moving forward. Each toe of the tiger paw had a display on a different crop, wheat, soybeans, corn and cotton.

"I also wanted to teach the kids that the maze, like life, is filled with right and wrong choices — the wrong choices put you in a dead end; the right choice, studying hard, keeps you moving forward," Frederick says. "We gave all the kids a photocopy of the aerial photo."

The youngsters’ eyes lit up at the farm equipment parked adjacent to the maze. "They were amazed that most tractors and combines cost more than most houses," Frederick says.

He came up with the design and handed it off to Sue Robinson, GIS/GPS specialist, who digitized the latitude and longitude of the field. "We planted the field, Sue flagged off the design using a hand-held GPS unit, I mowed off the corn in the design and Sue traced the outline of the design using the GPS unit to make sure everything looked good."

They planted the corn the first week in August so it would be green the first two weeks in October when the tours were scheduled.

"I timed it so that pollination would be over about Oct. 1 to avoid a bunch of sneezing children — it worked out perfect," Frederick says.

He used a day-neutral corn variety and was able to time when the pollen would start to blow. He used a DeKalb Roundup Ready/Bt hybrid supplied by Monsanto.

"The Bt worked out fantastic as far as late-season insect control," Frederick says. "I also used 15-inch row widths, which kept the weeds in check and helped give the field a true maze effect.

"It looks like the maze will make some corn, too," Frederick says. "I could sell it for feed or for deer feed."

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