LEROY — For a quarter of a century, students’ noses have crinkled and their eyes lit up as they stepped off the bus at Gingrich Meadows for Rural Education Days.

On Thursday, both past and present Project RED presenters and organizers celebrated the 25th year of the program, which works to educate students in Osceola County about agriculture and the environment during a day-trip to Gingrich Meadows and Rose Lake County Park.

Osceola County Farm Bureau, Gingrich Meadows, the Osceola County Parks Commission and Michigan State University Extension partner together to make the day possible, coordinating with local schools to allow a hands-on learning experience for area youth.

“We know a lot of these fourth-graders won’t recall everything they learn, but we hope they remember they were at a farm, they were at a park and they have a better impression of our natural resources and agriculture than what they did if they hadn’t attended,” said Jerry Lindquist, Osceola County MSU Extension grazing and crop management educator.

Children from Reed City Public Schools, Pine River Area Schools, Trinity Lutheran School and Big Jackson Schools were in attendance Thursday, with a second day of Project RED planned for more schools on Friday.

Before the students arrived Thursday, a small ceremony was held to recognize and commemorate the anniversary for the event. In the more than two decades of Project RED, an estimated 10,000 people have come through the event, including students, teachers and parents.

Lindquist presented resolutions from Gov. Rick Snyder to Larry and Elaine Gingrich, of Gingrich Meadows, and to the Osceola County Parks Commission.

Minutes after the resolutions were handed out, buses pulled into the farm, children spilling out and ready for what the day had in store.

On the farm, students visited five stations to learn about calf management, milk production, feeding dairy cows, manure management and chicken egg development. Stations at Rose Lake County Park included sessions on outdoor survival, corn growth and use, recreational safety, a fruit smoothie bike and wild turkeys.

Half of the students started at the farm and the other half went to the park, swapping locations after lunch.

Students got a chance to learn about where their food comes from, getting an up close look at the milking parlor and learning about the different dairy products made from milk.

The night before Project RED, seven cows had calves which the students were able to see and pet.

The annual program is beneficial to all students, giving them opportunities they may not have had otherwise, said Susan Stoll, a Pine River teacher.

“A lot of people assume because we are a rural school district all the kids know these things,” she said. “But a lot of them don’t. Not everyone lives on a farm. This is a great way to teach them in a controlled environment.”

Getting students out of the classroom and outdoors creates memories they won’t forget, said Osceola County 4-H Coordinator Jake Stieg.

“They remember bits and pieces of the farm years later,” he said. “It may seems like a small thing, but it’s really a chance to leave a big impact.”