Top 10 Reasons to Take IALF Professional Development

Every summer, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation works with local communities to put together teacher professional development workshops throughout the state. These two-day workshops consist of one tour day in which participants visit local farms and agribusinesses. The second day, participants connect the principles from the first day to lesson plans and activities that tie to Iowa Core standards.

That’s all well and good, but why should you consider taking one of these courses? Let’s break it down.

1. Renewal Credit

These courses are run through AEA PD Online and meet the necessary standards to renew your teaching license. Each course can be taken as one license renewal credit, or one graduate level credit through Drake, Morningside, or Viterbo.

If you don’t need teaching license renewal credit, the course can be taken without credit!

2. It’s Affordable

If you want to take a course for free, you can! The only costs associated are those to get credit. For teaching license renewal credit, courses cost $35. For graduate level credit, courses cost between $55 and $75 total. This includes transportation to tour sites, and lunches!

3. Tours

If you have to take a course, do you really want to sit in a classroom all day and be lectured at, or do you want to go see interesting things in your area? With one full day of tours, you get the chance to not only learn more details about agriculture and agribusinesses in your area, but you can also learn how to connect it to class material that really relates to your students.

In 2017, some tours are being planned for dairy farms, ethanol refineries, an alpaca farm, implement dealerships, wind farms, and so many others!

4. Real World Connections

The amazing thing about agriculture is that it relates to every core subject area. Inevitably, students ask why the things they’re learning about are important. With agriculture, you can tell them why, and point to careers that use those skills.

For example, did you know that a monoslope barn can create a breeze to keep livestock comfortable all year long? This can connect to science and engineering classes!

5. Applicable Assignments

There are assignments involved in the workshops, but they’re directly related to your job as a teacher. By writing two lesson plans to use in your own classroom, and reviewing other teachers’ lesson plans online, you will leave ready for the coming school year!

6. Hands-on Lessons

The second day of the workshop takes place largely in the classroom setting, where teachers learn more about applying agriculture to the core subject areas through activities. Teachers can walk through a variety of lessons that IALF has created that tie to science, social studies, math, and language arts.

Below is pictured a lesson where students work with blocks labeled with vocabulary words from the book, My Family’s Beef Farm. They build sentences and complete other tasks, like sort by syllables, parts of speech, or their familiarity with the word.

7. It’s Local

By working with contacts in local communities, IALF is able to reach teachers across the state, instead of in one centralized location. This also helps relate material back to the students who live in these areas. This summer, IALF will be offering eight different workshops in Clarinda, Eddyville, Moville, Donnellson, LaPorte City, Spencer, Peosta, and Sioux City.

8. Gain Resources

IALF has a host of resources available to teachers, students, and volunteers. By attending one of these workshops, you can learn more about the resources available, and how to use them in your classroom or community. Some resources include lesson plans, publications, and grant programs.

9. Insight From Industry Professionals

The best way to learn about an industry is to talk to the professionals that work in it. Whether you hear from these people during tours, FarmChat® programs, or presentations, you can learn more about the specifics of agriculture and about the careers your students may go into someday.

10. Insight From Your Peers

Throughout the workshop, you will be interacting with other teachers, volunteers, and community members that share similar goals with you. Together, you can discuss topics and brainstorm new and exciting ways to educate your students.

IALF’s professional development workshops really focus on integrating real-world agriculture into the core subjects that students need to learn about. Whether students learn about air movement from cattle barns, measurement from pigs’ feed, or germination from soybeans, there is something for every student — and every teacher — in agriculture.

Anyone is eligible to attend these workshops. If you have an interest in teaching youth in your community about agriculture (or science, social studies, and language arts), these workshops will especially benefit you. For a full listing of our summer workshops and to register, visit this link.

We hope to see you this summer!

-Chrissy

P.S. Check out a video about last year’s workshops here!

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung! We have warmer days and more sunshine as the days get longer. There are a lot of changes that occur in the spring season. Budding trees, blooming flowers, chirping birds and baby animals are a sure sign of warmer days and new life. Just this week I watched as a robin and mate prepared a nest for protecting and nurturing their new family. I love spring because of the new life, as well as some of the traditions that happen around this time of the year.

One spring tradition that families have handed down from generation to generation is decorating eggs and hunting for them. Easter eggs are decorated and given as gifts. Older hungry-history-easter-foods-from-lamb-to-eggs-Etraditions used dyed or painted eggs, but many now give foil covered chocolate eggs or plastic brightly colored eggs filled with candies. The eggs symbolize new life as a tiny chick emerges from what started out as an egg. We have great materials in the lending library that teach about chicks, eggs and other baby animals. Books like Chickens Have Chicks and Cows Have Calves by Lynn Stone, Who Grows up on the Farm by Theresa Longneck. All About Eggs DVD, and Hatching Science-21 days of Discovery DVD and Modern Marvels on corn, eggs and milk.

From the eggs (if they are fertilized and not dyed) we get baby chicks in the spring. ababychickTraditionally, chickens only laid eggs in the spring and early summer months when the weather was good and food plentiful. But in modern agriculture we can control many of those factors and chickens can lay eggs year round. Chickens need to be kept warm and they lay better when the days get longer. The mother incubates her eggs and needs favorable conditions like food, water and warmth. Chicks are cute little fluffy balls of fur that need care and attention to grow strong and healthy.

th6BYQK9PNFarmers are very busy this time of year planting crops and caring for many newborn animals that live on the farm. Spring brings the baby season. Calving is routinely a couple months of the year around spring. Some reasons for this are that the cow needs to be watched a little more closely for the birth, in case there are difficulties in delivery. By having
routine times for birthing it also allows for routines in regards to 185615651immunizations. One of the most important reasons is that spring brings greener pastures and a nursing mother grazes . As the calf grows, so does the grass and soon the young one will be out grazing just like her momma. That makes weaning easier as the mother cow’s milk diminishes.

Spring planting and gardening is one of my personal favorites. I love to go shopping for annuals to adorn the outside of my home. Filling pots and containers with pops of color and fragrance allows even the amateur green thumb to enjoy the beauty that nature provides with plants and flowers. Annuals are plants that complete a lifecycle in just one year and then die. Spring time is a great time to visit local nurseries and farms to experience and enjoy the smell of spring.

Iowa’s fertile soil (farm land and backyards alike!) offers a great growing ground for a th3EF5HSEUcouple awesome tulip festivals in May to showcase the beautiful flowers in their areas. Pella has Tulip Time the first weekend of May. The city comes alive with tulips, parades and many Dutch traditions. Orange City offers a tulip festival and many Dutch customs every third week of May.

Spring is here and it is a great time to take advantage of some of these seasonal traditions. Get out and enjoy the warmer temperatures. Dabble in planting a few potted plants and see what’s available in your local area…maybe a festival, botanical garden, or local farm festival would be perfect.

– Sheri

Book Club: Understanding Our Modern Food System

I aspire to be an avid reader. I like everything from autobiographies and spy novels to science fiction and fantasy. But lately I find myself reading a lot of historical nonfiction. I seem to gravitate to big thinking authors like Mark Kurlansky, Bill Bryson, and Andrew Lawler. These and other authors have helped shape my understanding of our modern food system. But more importantly, they have helped give me ideas of how we can continue to improve on our modern food system. So here are my top recommendations to (begin to) understand 10,000 years of agriculture.

ggs.jpgUnderstanding the Origins of Agriculture

Read: Guns, Germs, and Steel – by Jared Diamond

Diamond sets the stage for an immense conversation. He hypothesized that the arc of human history was dramatically shifted by geographic, environmental, biological, and other factors, resulting in the worldwide dominance of the leading industrial powers during the past 500 years. The book won a 1997 Pulitzer Prize and quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

The book covers a lot of topics, but with regards to our modern food system we can start to understand that the spread of humans followed the spread of agriculture. Agriculture crops have typically only been spread around the globe at similar latitudes as where they were first domesticated. Wheat, barley, oats, sheep, and goats were first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Europe’s proximity to the Fertile Crescent and similar climate allowed those crops and livestock to be easily adapted. As farmers produced more food, human populations exploded. This set the stage for Europeans to cross the Atlantic and explore the world. It was then these same staple crops that were introduced in North America to help feed and fuel the growing populations that would become the United States.

The United States had a similar climate to Europe in that crops and livestock were easily adapted. The United State’s geography was also more horizontal than vertical. Crops and livestock could spread across the same latitudes easily and did not have to adapt to the colder climates of the north (Canada) or the hotter climates of the south (Mexico and Central America). The geography of the globe helped (for good or evil) predetermine some of the winners and losers in food production and later uneven economic development around the world.

edible.jpgUnderstand Food as a Tool that Shaped our Culture

Read: An Edible History of Humanity – by Tom Standage

Food is more than just sustenance. Food has been a kind of technology, changing the course of human progress by helping to build empires, promote industrialization, and decide the outcomes of wars. Standage weaves an epic timeline that encompasses kings and queens and how food helped craft our empires. Food was the driver for many technological inventions. For modern examples we look at the refrigerator or microwave but historically we look at the wheat mill or even something as simple as the fork.

Once civilizations were founded on the back of agriculture, complex societies emerged. Food storage systems evolved and food distribution systems were put into place. This allowed farmers to specialize and then trade. But whoever controlled the food controlled the wealth and power, so history has shown countless struggles. Food has even been used as a weapon. For example, the scorched earth policy as Russians retreated from the Napoleonic invasion left no food available for the invading army. The invasion ultimately failed. Food is a powerful weapon.

Much of the technology in the 20th century has revolved around the food system. The farm labor force has shrunk to all time lows with less that 2% of Americans actually involved in food production. Large scale machinery like combine harvesters have allowed labor to be minimized. The converse of that has been the increase in energy consumption. Farm work is more mechanized, but it requires a lot of energy. In addition to this, biotechnology and plant genetics have led to higher and higher yields. Technologies like the Haber Bosch process have allowed for increased yields from better nutrients.

kitchen.jpgUnderstand Our Relationship with Food

Read: Kitchen Literacy – by Ann Vileisis

Our modern relationship with food is defined by our not being involved in food production, but being intimately connected to to food. After all, we still eat three times a day. Vileisis‘ book tells of how we became disconnected from the sources of our food. Many of the issues discussed today are the same issues that were talked about a century ago.

People want to feel good about where their food comes from so they often allow a picture on the side of the packaging to dictate their knowledge of what the food is and how it was produced. Largely, our image of food and our understanding of food is created by marketers who use words like all natural, organic, cage-free, etc. to makes us feel good about our purchases. But few people understand what those terms mean and fewer people still understand how the food was produced.

The book inspires hope in becoming more connected to food. It isn’t really practical for all Americans to become wheat farmers so that we can harvest wheat, mill our own flour, and then bake our own bread. But we can all become closer to food by understanding how it was produced. We can visit farms and farmers markets. We can cook more. We have our own backyard gardens. By maintaining this connection to the land we can have a say in what our food system should look like in years to come.

What books have you read on agriculture or the food system? Leave us a comment with what book or books we should read next!

-Will 

My Family’s Corn Farm and 8 Other Ways to Teach About Corn

When most people think of Iowa, they think of corn.   It’s the number one agriculture commodity in Iowa, and Iowa farmers grow more corn than any other state.  In fact, only three countries (U.S., China, and Brazil) produce more corn than is grown in our little state.

Because corn is big here, it makes sense that Iowans are excited to get their hands on a children’s book all about corn farming!  My Family’s Corn Farm is a non-fiction book by Katie Olthoff.

The story follows Presley, a young Iowa farm girl.  She lives with her family on a corn and swine farm in southeast Iowa. Presley a takes the readers on a tour of the family farm and discusses how corn is grown for livestock feed, human food, industrial uses, and to produce fuel like ethanol.

The story is written at a 3rd grade reading level, but it is great for all elementary classrooms.  Lower elementary teachers are using it as a read aloud book, and it offers supplemental text on more advanced topics science and social studies topics for older students.

More than 1000 copies of the book were requested by teachers during the first month!   Along with those requests, came requests for corn-themed lessons, activities, and books from our lending library to use with My Family’s Corn Farm.

Here’s eight of my favorite lessons and resources for teaching about corn!

  1. Corny Charades. How fun does that sound? Students will hone language arts skills and learn new science vocabulary while playing this corn-y version of charades.
  2. The Diversity of Corn. Many kids think that most of the corn grown in Iowa is sweet corn.  In this lesson, they’ll explore different characteristics and uses of field corn, sweet corn, popcorn, and ornamental corn, and learn a little about traits and heredity too!
  3. Seed Germination Necklaces. This is a fun twist on germinating seeds, a common science experiment in elementary classroom.
  4. Make Corn Plastic! Forget DIY Slime, when you can make corn plastic!  In this science and social studies lesson, students learn about renewable and non-renewable resources and make bioplastics with just corn cornstarch and corn oil.
  5. Seed to Cereal. In this lesson, students sequence photographs while discovering the journey corn takes from seed to cereal, ethanol, and even cheeseburgers!
  6. Collaborative Corn Stock. The name says it all. Students work together to create a paper cornstalk while learning about plant parts and function.  As an added bonus, you’ll have a great work of art to jazz up the classroom walls!
  7. The Life and Times of Corn by Charles Micucci is a great complement to My Family’s Corn Farm. It’s not a great read-aloud book, but it is a great source for student to flip through to learn more about corn growth & development, history, and uses.
  8. Corn Volumes. This math lesson is a fun way to practice math concepts like measuring and estimating volumes — all using corn!

– Cindy

Three Ways to Help Students Use Text Features

Issue 6Getting students to read from a wide variety of texts is often a challenge in the classroom. Some of the challenges can be time, resources, and ways to help the students access all the different types of texts. Many teachers are using the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s student magazine, Iowa Ag Today to offer rich non-fiction text into their learning.

Rich student discussions can occur about the author’s purpose in the nonfiction text of Ag Today. The most common purposes of this type of text are to explain, inform, to teach how to do something, to express an opinion, or to persuade readers to do or believe something. Knowing the differences between nonfiction and fictional text can truly help students understand the meaning better.

Ag Today is aesthetically pleasing to readers as it offers text features to help them understand the text. These text features include and are not limited to print features such as bold print, symbols and icons; graphic aids like maps, charts and timelines; illustrations including photographs, drawings, or cartoons. It is imperative for teachers to explicitly teach students about using these features to help them with their understanding of the information presented.  Here are three ways to do this:

1.  Model through a think aloud. Talk through how you as a reader would tackle the text and how you would use the text features to help understand the text. Look at each page and ask students how an illustration helps them in their reading, or look at a map and ask why the map was added to the text. Students need to have conversations on the importance of text features in their reading to help them use them to better understand their reading. Teachers can also use this time to have students make predictions about what the text may be about after looking at text features.

2. Create a quick reference for to students to access when using text features. Here is an example list students can insert into their working notebooks or turn into posters for the classroom wall:

  • Maps: Help a reader visualize where places are in the state, nation, or world.
  • Captions: Can help understand a picture or photograph.
  • Illustrations or photographs: Help to visualize the text and make it real. They may also help determine what is important within the text.
  • Special print: Look for bold, italics, or underlined words to determine key vocabulary.
  • Graphs: Can help understand important data within the text and assist in interpreting.
Issue 6 centerfold

In this example from Issue 6, text features are used to draw attention, provide additional information, and help students visualize and understand what they read.

3.  Using Ag Today in the classroom not only helps with reading of nonfiction texts, but it also offers opportunities for students to write. Teachers can preview the text with students and then have them write questions they may have about the text features they see. In addition, there are many think and discuss prompts within the text for students to talk with another student and to write their thoughts as well. This truly helps students realize the importance of discussing, reflecting, and writing about what they are reading.

Students reading Ag Today - Issue 2In conclusion, it is imperative for students to have access to multiple types of texts in the classroom. Ag Today is an excellent example to use for not only various content areas but also learning how to use text features for understanding. I would encourage teachers to start with a few strategies such as the ones shared here and slowly add more as you see students becoming more familiar with using text features. Happy reading in your classroom!

-Jody Still Herbold, Education Consultant, Northwest AEA

Bread Making—A Form of Art & A Way To Connect Back to Agriculture

As a college student, bread making is not something most think about or have time to do on a regular basis. It’s a lot easier to go to the store and pick from a wide selection of sliced breads—just as it is for any food items found in the store. In this generation, it’s easy to take for granted the convenience of a supermarket and the men and women who work to make the food we eat. This is where the gap between the consumer and the farmer begins—because we are not directly making or growing the food we eat—bread making is a prime example of this, and so I spent the weekend learning how to make bread. Here is my story and the lessons I learned along the way.cinrolls

Last week, I had a curious interest about bread making. It was interesting—earlier in the week my roommate and I were having a conversation about how much we love bread and then later on that night I was on Facebook and saw one of those quick food recipe videos—it was about making homemade bread.  It intrigued me just enough that the next day I was making my very own homemade bread.

I went to the store and got all the ingredients, and when I came back I instantly got started on the process. My favorite part of the bread making process was kneading the dough—it reminded me of kneading clay in pottery class—which is something that this process is very similar to. Kneading is an important step in the bread making process. Kneading activates the natural gluten in the wheat bread flour. Gluten is a protein that stretches; when we knead the dough, the gluten stretches and becomes more elastic. Then the yeast does its job in the process. The yeast in the bread releases carbon dioxide creating little air pockets. The air pockets are only possible because the gluten allows the bread to stretch instead of crumble and break apart. This results in a light, chewy, airy texture in the final product.

I think what shocked me the most was the amount of waiting time that went into bread making. After kneading, you must let the dough rise. Letting the dough rise gives the yeast time to metabolize some of the sugars in the flour and release carbon dioxide creating little air bubbles. Yeast is a fungus and is essential in leavened bread. The more active the yeast is, the more the bread will rise. Yeast is most active at room temperature or slightly warmer, but as the baking process starts it then kills the yeast. It takes quite a few hours to let the bread rise and even after that you must do that a couple of times to get the perfect outcome.

bitmoji- breadAs I reflected on the process, I realized that bread making, in its own unique way, is a form of art, and after going through the recipe I can begin to appreciate the process and the people who make bread on a daily basis. It’s an art in the way one kneads the dough, it’s an art in the type of bread made—bagels, dinner rolls, sourdough, rye, or whole wheat—it’s an art in how you let the dough rise, and its an art in how you shape the dough to be baked. A big part of the bread making process is a form of art that some have mastered perfectly.

As the weekend went on, I found myself really enjoying making bread and sharing it with others. After making two loafs of bread on Friday I went on to make homemade cinnamon rolls on Saturday and contemplated the process of croissants on Sunday—which is a blog for another day.

It seems crazy to think how something as simple as making bread can make us closer to our agricultural roots. But anything that takes a raw product, such as wheat and dairy, and then turns it in to something new, like bread, ice cream or yogurt, can connect us back to the industry that allows us to do this—agriculture. Now even though I enjoyed my time making bread and other bakery treats this weekend, I will probably still take the convenient route of going to the store and save making homemade bread for another time when I need to be reminded of how our food is grown.bread and me crop

Recipe for White Bread

Ingredients

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

2 ¼ cups warm water

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

6 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

Directions

 Step 1: In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, oil, and start with 3 cups of flour. Mix together and slowly add in the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Step 2: Create a floured surface and knead dough until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Roughly knead for 5-10 minutes.

Step 3: Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let dough rise until it has doubled in size. Roughly 1.5-3 hours.

Step 4: After dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide dough in half. Shape the dough and place in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size. Approximately 1 hour.

Step 5: Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Step 6: Let cool and Enjoy!

Hannah

Ethanol Quick Facts

Many of us know that ethanol exists. It comes from corn and can be used to power our vehicles. But many people are afraid to use it for fear of hurting their car, truck, or SUV. Today, let’s talk more about what ethanol is, where it comes from, and who can use it.

In chemistry terms, ethanol is ethyl alcohol, or C2H60. It can be made from many different things, including sugar cane, cassava, and sorghum. Essentially what happens is the sugars in the grain are fermented and turned into alcohol.

It’s not an incredibly new idea, either. In fact, there was even an episode of Dukes of Hazzard about it in 1979 (High Octane, for the fans out there). Bo and Luke entered a contest to find a cleaner burning fuel and entered their homemade moonshine (essentially just food-grade ethanol) in the contest. Of course, they had to fool Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane in the process, but in the end they won the prize money. Of course. They’re the Dukes.

Though the 1970s did mark the beginning of the modern ethanol industry, it didn’t all start then. According to the Energy Information Agency, ethanol was first used to power an engine as early as 1826! It was used as fuel for lighting in the 1850’s, too, but this use fell off when it was taxed as a liquor during the Civil War.

But anyway, how is ethanol made? Well, it really is just a bigger, fancier version of making moonshine. It works in the same way that other alcohol production works; yeasts break down sugars and create alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process.

Here in Iowa, we make ethanol from the starches of the corn kernel. Starches are essentially a long chain of sugar molecules. You may have heard of cellulosic ethanol, which yields the same product, but the process is a bit different, because the alcohol is created from cellulosic plant material, like corn stalks, instead of starches like in corn kernels.

a

First in the process to make ethanol, you have to physically break open the kernel so that the starches are exposed. Then, enzymes are introduced that break down that starch chain into a simple sugar. This is the same kind of thing that happens when you put a cracker on your tongue and don’t chew it. It breaks down anyway, because there are enzymes in your saliva that do the same thing. How cool is that?

Once the starches are broken down into sugars, yeast can be added. The yeast eats the sugar, and produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. After the yeast has done its job, the ethanol is purified, meaning any remaining water is removed using heat and molecular sieves. Lastly, ethanol is blended with a specific amount of gasoline to ensure that it cannot be used for human consumption.

b

In this graphic, you can see that there is a byproduct in ethanol production that creates animal feed. Depending on if it is dried or remains wet, it is either called DDGs (dried distillers grains) or “wet cake” (wet distillers grains). This is a common feed supplement because it is a high quality feed at a low price.

At the gas pump, however, there are a few common blends of ethanol to know about. The one that is the most common at gas stations is E-10. That means that the fuel is 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. The second kind of fuel is E-15. E-15 is not at all gas stations, but is denoted with a blue handle at the pump. Many people stray away from E-15 for fear of hurting their engine, but that is a common misconception. All cars made in the year 2001 or after are approved to use E-15. E-15 options are generally cheaper (up to a dime per gallon), and burn cleaner than lower percentage ethanol blends.

Lastly, there is E-85, which is a remarkable 85% ethanol. This blend should only be used in Flex Fuel vehicles designed for that much ethanol. These vehicles are becoming more and more popular.

c

In summary, ethanol in Iowa is most commonly made from the starches in the corn kernel. The process yields a cleaner burning, cheaper, renewable fuel alternative, as well as a low cost and high quality livestock supplemental feed. Flex Fuel vehicles can use up to 85% ethanol (E-85) blends, and all cars built in 2001 or later can use E-15 blends.

To find a gas station with E-15, click here! For lessons relating to ethanol production, click here. And for a new book about modern corn production, click here.

-Chrissy