“Wow, I didn’t know that!”
Was this from a first grader? No! It was from a teacher after attending an Agriculture in the Classroom presentation. As I visit classrooms I know my main audience is the student, but the adults in the room are also gaining knowledge.
I first realized this several years ago during Ag Day, an event in the spring for all the 3rd graders in Mahaska County. The students rotate from station to station along with their teachers and their parent chaperones. There are stations on beef, pork, sheep, poultry, corn, soybeans, vet medicine, and farm safety just to name a few. They stay at each station for about 10 minutes before moving on. Every year I have at least one or two of the chaperones who tell me how much they have learned! This day has become a highlight for the 3rd graders each year and the teachers tell me it’s the best field trip they take. We bus them to the location, feed them lunch, and send them home with great memories along with a goodie bag of agriculture related materials. A few weeks after Ag Day I visit the classrooms and follow up with them on what they loved about Ag Day and what they learned. It’s amazing to hear all the different aspects that the students remember. The teachers usually chime in on something they learned also.
We have a dairy farm outside of Oskaloosa that has welcomed many school groups to see their operation. Each spring a group of preschoolers comes out to see the milking process, feed young calves, and then make ice-cream-in-a-bag in the yard. Again, they bring lots of extra adults to keep track of these 3 and 4-year-old kids. The kids love feeding the calves, but it’s the adults that are asking all the questions. By hearing their questions, it reminds us of why we are doing Ag in the Classroom. Most of their questions are very basic and not too technical. They want to know the personal side of the farming business and how that milk in the tank gets to their kitchens.
I have attended several National Agriculture in the Classroom conferences. At these conferences there are so many opportunities to learn about another part of our country and the agriculture in that area. I have toured fish farms, organic vegetable farms, small farms with grazing sheep in the fields and very large dairy farms. The conference has excellent break out sessions and guest speakers. Most of the attendees are already teaching agriculture in their classrooms as this conference is geared towards educators but coordinators like myself also come away with a better appreciation for agriculture and how it can incorporated into our classrooms. If anyone is thinking of going to the national conference, it is well worth the trip!
This past summer we teamed up with two other counties and hosted a teacher workshop along with the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. This two day workshop took a lot of planning but was well attended by teachers from our surrounding counties. We toured the same dairy farm that the preschoolers had been to. We went to a beef farm and a farm with row crops. We toured Frisian Farms with their gouda cheese and Tassel Ridge Winery. The following day we were in Eddyville at the Iowa Bioprocessing Training Center and heard from many of the businesses in that area along with a tour of Cargill. The Iowa Learning Farms did a presentation on water quality and we were able to show the teachers how to use FarmChat® in their classrooms. During lunch on the first day one of the teachers raised her hand and said, “So I get it, EVERYTHING we are teaching can be related to agriculture!” Now that is success!!!!
Even though Agriculture in the Classroom in known for work students, we are educating the adults too!
-Karen Adams is the Ag in the Classroom lead for Mahaska and Marion Counties