Our vision is to provide every student in Iowa an agricultural based learning experience. We hope to motivate people to learn and then advocate for agriculture. I am continually amazed when I see the outcomes from individuals that are given the resources they need to advocate and educate. What they do is truly inspiring and I am grateful for their passion to feed the next generation with knowledge.
I have had the opportunity to observe many awe-inspiring moments through the Teacher Supplement Grant that we awarded this past spring. I helped judge and select the projects that would teach Iowa’s students. The projects were things like field trips, to bring the farm into the classroom via technology, to visit farms and various locations like the Iowa Dairy Store or Living History Farms, to purchase agriculturally based books and supplies to do experiments, grow school gardens and so much more.
Here is a sampling of the many impactful results of agriculture in the classroom from the wrap up reports that we received. These outcomes are truly amazing!
Stephany Becker, kindergarten teacher at Franklin Elementary in Sioux City, Iowa shared “During our farm unit I took the time to teach all I could about agriculture.” For eighteen days they spent time learning, reading, and completing work centers about farm animals. They spent two days learning about each animal, reading a story or watching a short video to learn more. After they had an understanding of the animal they created a work page for our farm unit book. They also contacted a local farmer to bring the farm animal to the classroom. They had a baby pig, lamb, and dog visit. They even had a rodeo horse visit the school. “Our favorite visitors were the baby chicks that hatched in our incubator in the classroom!”
Debora Black, ESL teacher at Timber Ridge Elementary in Johnston, Iowa said “The project began with using the books purchased through the grant to support one student with limited vocabulary in English.” Key vocabulary they learned included: seed, stem, and roots. The books built background knowledge for the student, making connections with the new vocabulary through the text and the strong, clear visuals on each page. The books also built vocabulary regarding the relationship between seeds and the plant they grow into, as well as how each plant comes from a different seed. The background provided by these books set the student up for success in the group agriculture project. “Our agricultural project consisted of students’ first learning about seeds, seed dispersal, and germination.” Next, students selected a plant they would like to grow from seed. Seeds were started in peat pots with potting soil in a greenhouse kit. Prior to planting seeds, students were responsible for beginning an “Agricultural Journal”. Over the course of six weeks, students watched their seedlings grow tracking their seedlings’ growth in their journals. “While we tracked their plants’ progress, we learned about photosynthesis, the greenhouse effect and pollination.”
Susan Cahill, librarian at Woodbury Elementary in Marshalltown, Iowa shared “Because of our focus on literature, we integrate our science lessons in to the literacy lessons. This insures students have a good knowledge of plant life cycles and where our food comes from.”
That structure does not allow for many hands on experiences for students. The grant provided them with gardening resources to add to their agriculture literature. Students got to experience the planting cycle and take home plants to nurture and harvest during the summer. Information was sent home for parents on the types of plants and how to care for them. “We want students to share their [agriculture] experience with their families and continue to experience the food cycle throughout the summer.”
Jill Mehaffey-Nalley, special education teacher at Aldo Leopold Middle School in Sperry, Iowa said “The class was able to purchase an incubator, heat lamp ring, and twenty-two fertilized eggs with the money from the grant.” Each student was given a reading activity about the development of the chicken inside of the egg. The students watched as the chickens hatched from their eggs and enjoyed the transition of them moving into the heat lamp ring. They learned how to care for the chickens and became very attached to each of the chicks. A farmer talked to the class about raising chickens and helped to identify the roosters from the hens. He also tried to help up identify the kinds of chickens that we were raising. It was a very funny discussion as he tried to explain how to identify the different sexes. The joy the students had with the project could not be measured. One student is blind and she felt the chicken hatching out of its egg.. “She was amazed and delighted with the entire event. She held the chickens every day and felt the growth.”
Kathleen Taplin, first grade teacher at Sumner Durant School in Sumner, Iowa shared “Our first graders experienced a hands-on field trip.” Students learned about the different breeds of dairy cows, the difference in number dairy cows from 1925 until 2010 in both Iowa and the USA, needs of dairy cows (food, shelter, water, sanitation, etc.). Students also learned about the dairy food group and all of the foods that fall under it. They learned how often a cow gives birth to a calf, the frequency of milking a cow, and about the differences between manual milkers and automatic milking machines. Students observed cows being milked, watched the brand new automatic milking system, and learned about the needs of calves in the calf barn.
“After we returned to school, students wrote about one fact that they learned from our field trip, and illustrated the writing. They were displayed in our school hallway.”
It is truly amazing what can be done right here in Iowa. There were 179 grants awarded to applicants from all over the state. Applications came in from 59 counties and 48 counties received grant funding. Teachers that are interested in bringing agriculture into their classrooms can apply for the Teacher Supplement Grants for 2016 in November 2015 with a January 2016 application deadline. Information can be found at www.iowaagliteracy.org in November 2016. We look forward to hearing your new and innovating ideas for the coming year. .