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Purdue Extension state fair exhibits focus on choices for healthier bodies, stronger communities

August 4, 2017

Last year’s Indiana State Fair celebrated the state’s rich agricultural tradition. This year, Purdue Extension looks to the future with a series of exhibits focused on helping people make easy, everyday choices to develop healthier bodies and stronger communities.

“From public health to the future of ecosystems and public spaces, Indiana faces a number of critical and complex challenges,” said Jason Henderson, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and director of Purdue Extension. “These engaging, entertaining, and highly informative exhibits can help all fairgoers better understand some of our most pressing issues and how our choices today affect our wellbeing and the communities our next generation will inherit.”

The exhibits are:

* Be Heart Smart

Heart disease is the number-one cause of death in Indiana and the United States. Purdue Extension’s Be Heart Smart exhibit will show you how even small changes in your lifestyle can help lower your risk for heart disease and how physical fitness and healthy eating can be fun.

Visitors will have a chance to learn about the heart. They can get their heart rate up with a few moderate physical activity challenges then cool down by visiting the relaxation station - a place to learn how to lower stress and heart rate through the use of “guided imagery” and deep breathing.

The exhibit also includes a lighted pathway to help visitors make healthier lifestyle choices. There will be demonstrations of heart healthy recipes throughout the fair.

“There are many risk factors for heart disease that can be controlled,” said Stephanie WoodcoxHealth and Human Sciences Extension specialist and one of the exhibit organizers. “With simple changes to your daily activities and diet, you can reduce your risk for heart disease.”

* Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces

What will Indiana look like in 2030? Fairgoers will have an opportunity to bring their own visions of the future to life in an interactive community-planning simulation developed by Purdue Extension’s Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program.

“Public spaces play a vital role in all our lives and add significant value to our cities and towns,” said Kara Salazar, sustainable communities Extension specialist. “They are the paths we bike on, the public parks we play in and the town centers where we shop. Decisions about how to design and manage these spaces can have long-term impacts on the social, economic and environmental health of our communities.”

The all-ages computer simulation demonstrates real-world processes of community planning – balancing commercial, residential and recreational spaces to enhance economic and environmental sustainability. If they choose, visitors can anonymously submit their plans to a database where the plans will be cataloged and preserved. A demonstration rain garden with information from Purdue Extension’s Rainscaping Education Program will also be featured in the exhibit.

* Indiana Soundscapes

When is the last time you listened to the world around you — really listened? Developed by Purdue’s Discovery Park Center for Global Soundscapes, this exhibit takes visitors back in time to sonically experience what the Indiana prairie was like two centuries ago, and what it looks and sounds like today.

“The exhibit is designed to raise awareness of changes in our soundscapes and how decisions we make today will affect our entire ecosystem in the future,” said Bryan Pijanowski, director of the center. “You’ll hear the calls of native wildlife and the wind rustling through the prairie grass while watching the changing skies. It’s an engaging, fully multimedia experience.”

 * Indiana’s Climate Crossroads

Earth’s climate is changing, with an increase in extreme weather events reported worldwide. Studies show global temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. What does this mean for Indiana, a state whose agricultural sector depends on a reliable temperature and rainfall patterns?

“A few degrees of temperature change might sound small, but it’s not,” said Jeffrey Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Resource Center. “Warmer temperatures will mean more Hoosiers suffering from heat-related illnesses and Lyme disease. Bigger rainstorms will mean more overflows into lakes and rivers and nobody likes to swim or fish in sewage.”

The exhibit will help visitors better understand how changes in the climate will affect Hoosiers and what they can do about it. One display will highlight some of the steps Indiana communities are already taking to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. For example, the city of Carmel has constructed more than 100 traffic roundabouts designed to eliminate stop signs that cause vehicles to needlessly idle at intersections.

“There are choices we can make now to help reduce the impact of climate change on future generations,” Dukes said. “Some things that we can do - like the roundabouts in Carmel and other cities - save people time and money and can even save lives, but also just happen to help with climate change.”

* Where Food Waste Goes

Intended for elementary school-age audiences, the exhibit consists of four highly interactive and colorful sections. The first section mimics the popular “Plinko” game from the TV game show “The Price is Right.” Visitors drop a chip into a vertical game board studded with pegs. The possible outcomes are all ways to reuse food that might otherwise be thrown away.

The second section is a play kitchen where visitors learn about how to conserve and preserve food, such as taking smaller portions during meals and labeling leftovers in a freezer. A third panel shows visitors how to reduce waste at school. The fourth section shows how food waste in landfills has a negative impact on water quality.

“There are many easy choices that adults, kids and schools can make to reduce food waste, such as proper storage, composting and meal planning,” said Rod Williams, a university engagement fellow and one of the exhibit organizers. “We should be focusing on the environmental effects of food waste before it ends up in landfills. Nutrients from food waste in landfills can seep into our waterways, causing algal blooms that consume the oxygen fish need to breathe.”

In addition to the exhibits, Purdue Extension will host other events throughout the fair:

* The annual Extension panel discussion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s August Crop Production report will be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 10 in the banquet hall of the Farm Bureau Building.

* Purdue’s Women in Agriculture awards will be presented on Aug. 17 in the Normandy Barn at the fairgrounds as part of the lieutenant governor’s Celebration of Agriculture program. The program begins at 3:30 p.m.

* In cooperation with the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association, Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine will present animal surgery demonstrations and interactive displays in a tent on the north side of the fairgrounds. Young people in grades 6-12 can sign up for the Indiana State Fair Vet Camp, which offers basic instruction in a variety of animal health care procedures, including x-rays and suturing.

The 2017 Indiana State Fair runs Aug. 4-20. The theme of this year’s fair is “The Wonderful World of Food.” The Indiana State Fairgrounds are located at 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis. Purdue Extension exhibits are located in the Agriculture/Horticulture and 4-H buildings, both on the west side of the fairgrounds near the midway.

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