Last week was an exciting week for the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation and for Ag in the Classroom programs across the state. We partnered with county Farm Bureaus to offer four professional development workshops for teachers. During the two-day experience teachers visited farms, grain elevators, implement dealers, and agribusinesses to learn first-hand about modern agriculture and see the STEM connections in the field. They did hands-on science experiments, explored language arts teaching strategies using agriculture books, and began developing lessons to help connect their students with agriculture while teaching math, science, social studies, and language arts.
The teachers attending the workshops were diverse. The majority were elementary teachers, but a few secondary science, math, social studies, and agriculture teachers were in the mix too. As we did introductions on the first day, one common theme emerged. Nearly every teacher had a connection to agriculture. Many of them grew up on farms or are currently involved in a family farming operation. It was obvious that these teachers already understood the value of agriculture and wanted to share that message with their students.
Positioned in the back of each workshop room was a giant sticky board we call a Wonder Wall. Teachers were encouraged to post questions they have about agriculture, ideas for using what they learned in their classroom, and “Wow! Moments” that stuck them. A “Wow! Moment” could be a simple surprising fact mentioned during a tour or an eye-opening epiphany about agriculture and education.
After finishing the whirl-wind week of workshops, I sat at my desk Friday afternoon and read what teachers wrote on the Wonder Wall. The Wow! Moments were the most profound. Nearly all of them focused on a realization they had about agriculture that hit them during the workshops. A few themes emerged. Teachers were wowed by innovation, opportunity, reliance, and commitment.
Their Wow! Moments didn’t completely surprise me because after all, agriculture is pretty amazing. However, I didn’t expect so many big-picture realizations about agriculture to develop from this group. Remember, nearly all of the teachers participating in the workshops already had an interest in and knowledge of agriculture.
This opened my eyes to the fact that we often don’t see what is right in front of us. We know that agriculture is high-tech, expensive, and innovative. We know that the jobs in it are abundant and diverse. We know that farmers love what they do and are committed to protecting the animals, land, and resources that support them. But what we often forget is that we need to share these things that we know with others.
I’ve been thinking about their Wow! Moments for the last week and will leave you with a few that are representative of those shared by these inspired and dedicated teachers.
“I was blown-away with the technology I saw today. So cool that Agrivision can see some problems [with equipment] before the farmer can and be able to contact the farmer to let them know and keep them in the field.”
“It was really cool to see the inside of the big pig barn. I’ve always wanted to walk up to one and take a peek inside but have never had the opportunity. I was amazed with all farmers do to keep the pigs safe from disease/contamination.”
“I did not realize how many jobs we had for people right here in our local area. We need to expose our learners from an early age.”
“Agriculture provides so much more than food. I am amazed with the many products made with items grown on farms.”
Now it’s your turn. What “Wows” you about agriculture?