So what is an Agriculture in the Classroom Volunteer? Who does this? And why do they do it? Agriculture in the classroom (AITC) is a program that shows teachers and volunteers how to teach core subjects like science, math, social studies and language arts using agriculture as the foundation for learning at all grade levels. Teacher professional development, lesson plans and other resources all use agriculture to help everyone understand and value the role that farmers play and how farms provide food, fuel, shelter and clothing.
AITC is a grassroots program that was founded by the United States Department of Agriculture and National AITC with a focus on helping to grow a greater awareness of the role that agriculture plays for the economy and everyday life.
AITC programs across the country welcome and thrive by the help of volunteers that go into classrooms and advocate for educational learning using agriculture. In this day of technology and specialization, only a small percentage of students have any farm connection and can understand the importance of agriculture. Food does not come directly from the store…AITC volunteers make the path from farm to plate a fun and educational journey. We, here in Iowa, are very fortunate that so many across the state see the importance of linking agriculture and education together . Because of that there are hundreds of volunteers that work diligently to make learning relevant and exciting.
I want to highlight a few volunteers across Iowa that are doing awesome work. Please know there are so many more great volunteers that I didn’t have the space to acknowledge!
Our first volunteer is Tracie Phillips, from Humboldt County. Tracie organizes an annual event each May called “Dairy Days”, Tracie tells us “We have the area schools from EagleGrove, Barnum, Humboldt, Bode, Gilmore City, LuVerne, Algona which brings an average of 400 students to the farm.” Students toured a milking parlor, learned cattle, pigs and chickens, just to name a few. The Iowa Dairy Princess makes her appearance as well. Children are served milk, sugar cookie, cheese (string and Curds). For many children, this is their first time on a farm and they have no idea what takes place on a farm. This is such an amazing event and it’s only one of the many things that Tracie volunteers with Humboldt County AITC.
Our second volunteer is Katie Hermanson, a volunteer in Story County. Katie has recently started an eNewsletter that is highlighting a Story County farmer or agribusiness. Katie is also actively doing FarmChat lessons. FarmChat is a way to connect classrooms with farmers through Skype. Just in this year alone she has had FarmChats on turkey farming, harvesting soybeans from an ISU research farm, and dairy farming from the Dairy Center in Calmar. Katie enjoys doing classroom programs and community events. The St. Cecilia class learned about growing popcorn and about chicken egg hatching. What a busy class they have! She is definitely passionate about educating our future farmers.
Our third volunteer is Barb Sauser from Dubuque. Barb regularly volunteers in classrooms across the Dubuque area. She recently led a National Ag Day event with a 6th grade classes that focused on livestock, grains, and general agriculture. Barb also does after school programs that works with K-5 and middle school teaching agricultural concepts and hands on activities. During summer months, Barb works with day care centers to offer a weekly agriculture focused program. She has been a volunteer for several years and this consistency with the school has helped to open doors of opportunity to hold agriculture related presentations for various grade levels that involve parents and local farmers in the community. Barb is an awesome asset for agriculture and education in her community.
I am amazed at the dedication and joy I see with AITC throughout the counties in Iowa. If you find that you have time to share your knowledge about agriculture and would like to learn about volunteering, we would love to talk with you. Our vision is to provide every student in Iowa an agricultural based learning experience. We would love to have you join the team of volunteers to help accomplish this goal.