Helping Students Relate to Lessons about Agriculture

“Oh! I get it!” These sweet words are music to a teacher’s ear. The exclamation of understanding that erupts from a student might just be the reason teachers continue their dedicated service. It doesn’t matter whether the child had been working on a subject for two weeks or two minutes, the joy is the same. This student understands!

As an Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator it is always interesting spending time in classrooms. Grade to grade and school to school, lesson topics tend to vary wildly. From learning about pumpkins with PreK, to mixing up soil with third graders, and then creating lessons on lavender as a specialty crop for middle school students, agriculture is the underlying principle in all of our lessons. It’s really one of the most significant things in our lives. So how do you get kids interested in agriculture? How do you help them understand the role food, fuels, and fibers play in their lives. And finally, guide them to find their own role in agriculture?

There are many ways to make agriculture relatable to students:

  1. Compare agriculture vocabulary with something they already know about.

How big is an acre?

“Acre” is a word not many kinds would know. Plus mentioin43,560 square feet is kind of hard to imagine. However, even the youngest of learners can recognize the familiar 100 yards of a football field (not including the end zones).

How much corn is in a bushel?

To all my fellow agriculture enthusiasts, I am about to make a confession. I grew up in the city and had no idea what a bushel of corn was. And I didn’t have a clue what it weighed. I had seen antique stores sell “bushel baskets” and I thought a dozen ears of corn would fit nicely, so in my agriculturally illiterate mind… 12. Twelve ears of corn was a bushel. Wasn’t I amazed to discover it’s more like 112. And it weighs 56 pounds. Or as much as an eight-year-old.

How much does a combine weigh?

Kids are impressed by the giant equipment that farmers use to grow the food that feeds the world. Tractor wheels taller than a grown up and combines as tall as a small house are awe inspiring. But an educator can’t always bring these things into the classroom with them. Pictures are great and a chance to have a FarmChat® virtual field trip is even better. Otherwise, make your words descriptive and compare it to something they already know.  A John Deere combine, depending on the model, might weight 30,000 pounds, that’s as much as two school busses, or six elephants.

2. Bring lots of examples with you to class or have lots of pictures available for your virtual lesson. You can describe the difference between treated and untreated soybean seed, or you can show students. You can talk about the nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots of a soybean plant, or you can bring in examples, pulled out of the field that very morning.

3. Use the changing seasons to teach about what is happening on the farm. In November, we talk turkey. In January, it’s winter on the farm. Spring is an excellent opportunity to talk about the beginning of life cycles. Egg hatching programs and the baby chicks offer a hands-on opportunity for kids to learn about what happens in an animal’s lifecycle.

So whether you are a born and bred city gal like me, or an experienced farmer who’s taken a plow around a field a time or two, we can all agree agriculture is relatable and important to students. It’s our job to help them understand how and why.

-Melanie

Tractors – A Memorable Collection in Many Sizes

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to be over. Don’t get me wrong. I love the turkey centered holiday bringing families together to count our blessings. But putting the delicious leftovers away always puts me in the mood for Christmas!

As the mother of two boys, Christmas (in part) means a chance for new toys. As the mother of two boys who happen to live on a farm, that equates to farm toys. Even before my sons could crawl they seemed to want a tractor or a plastic farm animal within their reach. The first toy tractor in our house (if you don’t count my husbands’ precision collectibles) was a plush John Deere pillow. My oldest dragged that pillow around the house with him and when preschool started, it kept him comfortable at naptime.

John Deere pillow my son used for naptime for while he was in preschool.

Next came the “real” farm toys, in every shape and size, but only in one color. Around our house it was always John Deere green, because that’s what dad and grandpa ran.

However, tractors do come in other colors and Ertl® has been producing farm toy replicas since 1945. Industry brands such as John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, and AGCO can usually be found at your local feed store, large chain stores like Walmart, and of course, on Amazon. When Fred Ertl, Sr. founded the company in Dubuque, Iowa over 70 years ago, I wonder if he ever imagined how popular the die-cast models, made right here in Iowa, would become. Red, yellow, blue, or green these model toys would become important to future farmers around the world.

What is it about a tiny tractor that is so compelling to youngsters who dream of farming? Is it the attention to detail? Is it the way the toy vehicle moves mimicking the driving patterns of their larger counterparts? Or maybe it’s the possibility of having an entire collection that can be farmed with, rain or shine in playrooms and basements?

Toy tractors in 1:16, 1:32, 1:43, 1:64 and 1:87 scale.

A young farmer’s collection can come in many sizes. It all depends on the scale.

ERTL® Toys Scale, How it works

  • 1:16 scale is the old-reliable of the die-cast toy line. When Fred Ertl Sr. started creating die-cast toys in his home in 1947 this was the scale that he created. 1:16 scale means that the toy is 1/16th as large as the real machine. For example if an 8320 tractor is 16-feet long the reproduction will be 1-foot long.
  • 1:32 scale is slowly becoming the new star of the die-cast toy line. More economical than the larger 1:16 scale the 1:32 scale is starting to grow in popularity. 1:32 scale means that the toy is 1/:32nd as large as the real machine. For example if an 8320 tractor is 16-feet long the reproduction will be 6-inches long.
  • 1:64 scale is the versatile scale. With its inexpensive prices, small size and light weight these toys can go anywhere. Some people who purchase the 1:16 of 1:32 scale toys for play at home also purchase these toys. Many consumers realize that these are a great size for travel or even to take along on social events where the little ones will need something to keep them entertained. 1:64 scale means that the toy is 1/64th as large as the real machine. For example if an 8320 tractor is 16-feet long the reproduction will be 3-inches long.

So, for farming enthusiasts young and old alike, nothing can beat the feeling of unwrapping the latest addition and adding it to their collection.

-Melanie

Growing Future Farmers

Does playing in the dirt make a better farmer? Does planting a garden create a future agronomist? Or raising a brood of backyard chickens develop a veterinarian? Could these things develop an interest in children regarding how agriculture affects their everyday life? If you have kids, or have spent time with kids, then you know when they are getting messy it is more than just a lesson in getting stains out of laundry. They are working.  They are learning. They are figuring things out in a way that is comfortable for them. Trying new ideas, gaining small successes (and even small failures) that are all stepping stones to the skills they will need as adults.

As I watch my 10 year old create a “dirt village” under a maple tree in our backyard, I see the wheels turning in his young mind (and on the tractors and wagons that have been gifts from family throughout the years). While playing he has to decide how and where to turn, the degree of turn he can make hooked up to a wagon, and how full he can make his wagon and still drive up hills. These activities will be the building blocks for when he is given the go ahead to operate life-sized machinery.  When he is grown and solely responsible for the decisions made on his own farm, I hope he will think back on these early days spent “playing” tractors under the shade of a tree.

Playing in the dirt no longer holds the attention of my oldest son.  At 14, he has discovered that work on the farm pays and has created a business buying hens and selling eggs. He has daily chores and responsibilities. The food and water that his animals need to survive come solely from his hands. He has had unexpected gains, when a neighbor was giving away four laying hens that produced his first “paycheck.” And he has had setbacks, like when a great horned owl decided that chicken was on the menu.

He keeps records of  his earnings and is responsible for all purchases. Good bookkeeping is invaluable to a prosperous farming operation and I am happy he is starting good financial habits early.

This school year, I am taking the lessons my children have learned on our family farm and I am headed out to schools. With each classroom presentation, I have a chance to reach students on their level. Finding out how much experience they have with agriculture. Who has a garden? Who has helped mom or dad, grandma or grandpa harvest produce? Has anyone been to a farm? Do you know where your favorite foods come from? And, then I get to do my favorite part. I get to listen, hear their stories and thank them for sharing. Kids want to know you are interested.

Part of presenting to children includes finding that spark, that bit of interest that makes them light up and say, “Hey, that’s cool” and maybe even, “I’d like to learn a little more about that.”

Why? Why is it important to reach children with agriculture?

  • New jobs are being created everyday in farming.  The technology farmers use changes constantly. Drones, once a thing of science fiction, now have a role in precision agriculture.
  • Iowa needs future farmers.  As we face a growing elderly population we will need a workforce that is trained and able to take over when the time comes. 
  • It’s relatable. Instead of telling your student what makes a plant grow or what an animal needs to survive, you can show them, day by day in real life applications.
  • And lastly, agriculture is fun!  And it makes an impression.  Lessons are messy and fairly inexpensive. It has been my experience that the more hands-on a lesson is, the more a student remembers.   

So when my future farmer asks me, “Mom, you wanna come watch me move dirt on my farm?” I sigh as I walk past the piles of paperwork, cringe as I notice the undone dishes (what else are counters for), and I happily tell him “Yes, at least till supper is ready.” He shows me his new improvements and we talk about some things that didn’t work like he thought and what he had to do differently.

After supper my teenager, my new entrepreneur, asks if I’d help him wash what he collected that day. As we delicately scrub the multicolored eggs and place them in cartons, we debate on what his next investments will be. Later in the evening he’ll use the family computer to research pros and cons of automatic egg washers.

Do these things guarantee my sons will farm, or have careers in livestock, or even be interested in agriculture? The answer is… I don’t know. But I do know a seed has been planted. You can’t grow anything you don’t plant.

-Melanie

Hello, my name is Melanie. I am the Education Program Coordinator for Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom.  In my role, I bring agriculture-related classroom programs to schools in an effort to improve agriculture literacy.   The school districts that I serve are in Carroll, Crawford, Harrison, Shelby, and West Pottawattamie counties.  My family and I raise cattle, corn, soybeans, and hay on a farm that has been in my husband’s family for three generations.  I grew up in an urban setting and am more comfortable in classrooms than in tractors, but I am fascinated by agriculture!  You’ll often hear me say, “I love the people who love to farm.”

 

Play dough – Not Just for Playtime

One of my favorite things about the holidays is the extended opportunity to spend time with family. During this holiday break, I decided to do a few hands-on projects with little ones. One of their favorite things to do is to make and play with play dough. I have always let my granddaughters help me make a home-made version of play dough. It’s fun, safe for youngsters, and they can play for quite a long time with cookie cutters and childproof utensils.

This version of play dough came with a little “agriculture” lesson. My granddaughters are Tessa, age 5 and Izzie, age 4. They are very curious about all sorts of things, so I decided while we made the play dough, we could learn not only how it is made, but also where the ingredients come from. Farmers help to make almost all of the ingredients in home-made play dough.

wheat1Flour: Most flour is made from wheat that has been finely ground into a powder. The 1.jpgprocess of making flour from the grain has been around since prehistoric times using a stone club and a stone bowl to grind the grain into a fine powder. Wheat is now grown in just about every state in the United States. The United States in ranks 3rd in the production of wheat and is the #1 wheat exporting country. The top wheat-producing states are Kansas, North Dakota and Montana.

Cream of Tartar: Cream of tartar is a byproduct of wine making. It is made from sediment left in the barrel after grape juice is fermented. This acidic salt acts as a stabilizer. For example, cream of tartar helps meringue retain its shape and texture on top of a pie after it is browned in a hot oven.

soybeans1Vegetable Oil: Most vegetable oils are made from soybeans. Iowa ranks number one in the production of soybeans. Extraction of oil happens when seeds are pressed, then the liquid is sent through a filtration system to sift out remaining seed residue.

OD-BA499_SALTS_OZ_20140108171619Salt: Salt is not an agriculture product. It is a mineral collected by evaporating salt water or mining rock salt.

Food Coloring; artificial and natural food dyes are added to food and beverages to make them more desirable to consumers. Artificial colors are made from petroleum. Natural colors are extracted from fruits, vegetable, and even insects.

Materialsplay-dough-recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
  • Saucepan
  • 1 cup flour

Directions

  1. Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a saucepan and heat until warm.
  2. Remove from heat and add flour.
  3. Stir, then knead until smooth. The cream of tartar makes this dough last 6 months or longer, so resist the temptation to omit this ingredient if you don’t have it on hand.
  4. Store this dough in an airtight container or a Ziploc freezer bag.

When it comes time to play, I get out the cookie cutters, plastic utensils, rolling pins,biscuit cutters and anything else they can use with their play dough. We have contests to see who can make the most different things with our “tools”. Eventually some of the green gets mixed with some of the red and the original pretty play dough looks a bit messy, but I can always be assured that we thoroughly enjoy make home-made play dough and playing with it! Take time this week and mix up a batch for the young ones in your home!

– Sheri

Beggar’s Night Favorites

Usually when we think about agriculture, we think about all of the healthy fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and grains that we eat. But nearly all food comes from agriculture – even our indulgences like candy!

According to Candystore.com, Iowa’s most favorite Halloween Candy is Reese’s Cups. Second and third place contenders are M&Ms and Butterfingers.

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Source: CandyStore.com.

Let’s break these down and look at the agriculture that helped make these sweet treats.

Reese’s Cups
It is no surprise that the three most popular candies are chocolate. Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa powder, milk, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, sugar, and maybe a little salt. We discussed chocolate and how it comes from the cacao bean before. Milk and milk fats come from dairy cows. Chocolate comes in a wide variety. Different types of chocolates have different amounts of these core ingredients. Dark chocolate will have a higher ratio of cocoa powder than milk chocolate. White chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa powder – only the cocoa butter. Milk chocolate is somewhere in the middle.

Soy lecithin you may not be familiar with. Lecithin are fatty compounds that can come from plant or animal sources (eggs, cotton seeds, etc.). Soy is abundantly produced in Iowa, throughout the Midwest, and throughout the world which is why soy lecithin is found in so many of our foods. It acts as a great emulsifier that helps oils and water stay mixed in our food products. Just a small amount goes a long way to helping improve the texture, appearance, and shelf life of food.

Peanuts are the second main ingredient in Reese’s Cups. Despite the name, they are not nuts at all. They don’t grow on trees like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios. They are grown underground! They are legumes and related to beans and peas. What we know as peanuts are produced as part of the root structure of the peanut plant. Legumes are important in agriculture because they host bacteria in the soil that help turn nitrogen into nitrates. Plants use nitrates in soil to stay healthy. Peanuts and other legumes are used in crop rotation to help keep soils healthy. Peanuts can be roasted, boiled, and also ground into peanut butter.

The term “sugar” can be used to either refer specifically to sucrose or it can be used generally to refer to all simple sugars (lactose, glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, etc.). chocolatiers may use any of these sugars to sweeten their chocolate. Most commonly, sugar comes from sugar beets grown in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana) or sugar cane grown in more tropical climates (like Florida).

Reese’s Cups also use another sweetener called dextrose. Dextrose is a simple sugar obtained most often from corn (field corn,  not sweet corn), but can be obtained from other sources as well, such as wheat, sorghum, and tapioca.

M&Ms

The primary ingredient is of course chocolate. It is a slightly different ratio of cocoa powder, milk, and sugar, etc. but it has all of the same component parts. What makes M&Ms fun and unique is their colorful candy shells. To get the right appearance and to not let the candy shell mix with chocolate center, the chocolate is sprinkled with a little bit of cornstarch. Cornstarch (from field corn) acts as a moisture barrier to keep the candy shell crunchy and not mix with the chocolate. The shells are then made from a little corn syrup, dextrin, food colorings, and gum acacia.

Butterfinger

The flakey buttery center of Butterfinger candy is a mix of corn syrup, sugar, ground roasted peanuts, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, molasses, confectioner’s corn flakes, salt, soybean oil, and cornstarch. You can see a common theme in these candies (chocolate, sugar, etc.). The molasses, corn syrup, and peanut butter are all mixed together. Molasses comes from sugar beet or sugar cane juice that is boiled down until it yields a thick, dark syrup. It can also be made from sorghum, dates, or pomegranate.

The sticky rich mixture is poured over confectioner’s corn flakes. These are not like the breakfast cereal. They are small pieces of field corn that have been rolled flat and dried. The corn flakes provide the candy the crispity-crunchity texture. Finally chocolate is poured over the center filling. Check out the video on how Butterfingers are made.

As you can see, a lot of the ingredients used in these candies come from Iowa and Midwest agriculture. Corn syrup, corn starch, and corn flakes from field corn. Sugar and molasses from sugar beets. Soy lecithin and soy oil from soybeans. And milk! No wonder Iowans like these sweet treats.

Of course these candies probably can be considered a part of a healthy diet. So don’t overindulge. But we hope you enjoy Beggar’s Night and have a Happy Halloween!

-Will

Summer Boredom Busters

mosaic

We’re only a few weeks into summer break, but I know many kids are already saying, “I’m bored.  There’s nothing to do.”

Whether you’re trying to keep your own kids busy or want to teach a group of kids about agriculture, we have many ideas for you!  Below are some great ways to help kids explore the world of agriculture, have fun, and learn about science or history too!  Some will work well for one or two kids to do at home, while others can easily be done with larger groups at a county fair, summer camp, etc.

GrassheadbigGrow Something

  • Create a Cover Crop Monster with grass seed, soil, stockings or old tights, a few art supplies. The grass grows into a funky hairdo your kiddos will love!
  • Plant a seed necklace. Add a corn kernel and a soybean seed to a jewelry-size zip top bag filled with moisture beads or a moistened cotton ball. Punch a hole in the top, add a piece of yarn, and viola… you have a living necklace featuring Iowa’s two main crops.
  • Get gardening. Remember, you don’t need to a big garden to get started.  Plunk a seedling or two into an existing flower bed, or create a container garden with something you already have around such as an old flower pot, bucket, barrel or even a shoe.  Just make sure it has holes in the bottom, to allow excels water to drain.
  • Plant soybeans in plaster of Paris. Say, what???  Just do it.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

TypingRead & Write

  • Read the digital version or request your own copy of My Family’s Beef Farm or My Family’s Corn Farm. For farm kids, have them to write and illustrate a simple story about their farm.  This would be a great family project!
  • Explore the list of books in our Lending Library with your children and pick out a few of their favorites to read together. See if your local library has these titles, or check them out through us for two weeks.  A few of my favs for younger children are Who Grew My Soup, and So you want to Grow a Taco, and All in Just one Cookie.  Great picks for older kids include The Kid Who Changed the World, Farmer George Plants a Nation. A Hog Ate my Homework, and The Beef Princess of Practical County.
  • Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type is one of my kids’ favorite books. In this super silly book, the cows write letters to the farmer demanding extra amenities in the barn or they will go on strike. After reading this book and “My Family’s Beef Farm,” ask kids to write a letter to Cecelia’s family from the perspective of one of the calves.  Their letters can be silly or more serious and consider the needs of the calves and what Cecilia’s family provides for them.  Instead of a “demand” letter, maybe they’ll choose to write a “thank you” letter.  To make this extra fun, ask around to see if you can find an old typewriter so the kids can type the letter just like the cows in Click Clack Moo.  The digital version can be found at PBS and it’s in our Lending Library too.

ice-creamGet Cooking

2050Play Games

  • Farmers 2050 is perfect for the middle and high school videogame-loving kids. This online and app-based game allows players to grow crops, raise livestock, and support their local community, and engage with local and global partners as they level up.
  • My American Farm’s interactive games are perfect for elementary-age kids. Players learn where food comes from and how those products get from the farm to their dinner plate.

IMG_1354Create Something:

  • Paint with Soil! Yes, dirt can be beautiful. The color of soil in Iowa varies quite a bit, but for a more colorful work of art ask out of state friends and relatives to send you soil too!
  • Make corn mosaics. Explore the difference between Indian corn, popcorn, and field corn while creating a beautiful work of art. Gather seeds of each type, craft glue, and cardboard squares and let your little artist create a masterpiece worthy of display in the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.
  • Forget rubber stamps, an ear of corn is all you need to create a beautiful work of art with ink pads or washable tempera paint. Rolling the whole ear in paint will create a beautiful pattern, but also try printing with the husks, cob, or a cross section of an ear. Other veggies like broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and even lettuce leaves make great prints too!

Grout-Museum-District-362x272Go Somewhere:

  • Visit a farm. Ask a relative, neighbor, or friend if your family can come visit their farm – or even better put the kiddos to work for a few hours help.  In person is best, but don’t forget about virtual visits too!  Check out our FarmChat® tips to learn how.
  • Have fun at a local farmer’s market. Encourage kids to help you pick out vegetables or ask the farmers questions.  This farmer’s market scavenger hunt will make the visit extra fun too!
  • Plan a family road trip to visit one of the many agricultural historical sites in Iowa. Check out Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area‘s eight Ag Adventure loop guides to make your planning easy! Even better, let the kids explore the website and help decide where to go!

-Cindy

 

 

 

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

Learning about the world around us beyond the classroom

It comes as no surprise that the dynamics of the typical American family have changed and will continue to do so. The family unit is increasingly diverse and constantly evolving. According to the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, 1 in 4 families has a child enrolled in some type of after school program.

Pig Farmer.jpgI would encourage those of us who are passionate about sharing information about agriculture to extend our thinking beyond the traditional classroom. There are a host of resources and activities that are great for specific lessons, but have we thought about using these resources outside of the common teacher/student role? After school programs, library reading programs, child care centers, YMCA youth programs, and home school self-studies are all under-utilized areas for making connections to agriculture.

The after school programs, summer programs, or structured learning within a childcare center provide an ideal time and place to get students excited about learning and pursuing their own interests. Self-confidence expands as they explore new talents in areas that may not be addressed by the regular school curriculum.

Newton library 2.jpgKnowing that many libraries and summer care facilities struggle to find interactive and fun programs to fill their time, I brainstormed a way to share information about agriculture in this setting. The 2015 summer reading theme, “Every Hero has a Story”, provided inspiration for this project. I took the idea of the superhero and applied it to agriculture. “Farmers are Superheroes Too” was born. Many kids can easily relate to superheroes and cartoons. What super powers might the farmer have? The thought of a farmer duplicating animals, having equipment that can drive itself and possessing super strength is exciting and intriguing for the targeted age group within these programs.

Chicks Library-2.jpgFrom photos of animals and crops to people and equipment, each became a cartoon using free online software. Matching up the photos with the superpowers led to the creation of a short story, “Farmers are Superheroes Too”.

Our local libraries, YMCA summer programs and care centers were happy to provide me with time to share this resource. We read the book with ages PreK to 4th graders. An exciting supplement to the book was the chance to use the FarmChat program and Skype with a farmer who demonstrated how his tractor could drive itself. This added experience helped make the farmer superhero come to life while demonstrating technology in agriculture. Other activities that have accompanied the book include planting vegetable seeds for children to take home and bringing baby chicks into childcare centers.

feeding calf at julies.jpgSharing information about agriculture helps put the world around us into perspective. There is no better tool than agriculture for the application of learning. Make sure the activities you offer are fun and engaging, no matter what they are designed to teach. Most kids are tired after a long day at school, and they will be best able to absorb the content of a lesson if it looks more like play and less like a traditional classroom lesson.

Be inspired to share agriculture in new ways! If you would like a free copy of the book, “Farmers are Superheroes Too” please feel free to contact me at jasper.county@ifbf.org.

-Trish Hafkey is the Ag in the Classroom coordinator for Jasper Co. Farm Bureau

Generate Excitement with Reading

School is starting across the state of Iowa and what a perfect time to get back into the routines of enjoying family reading times together. Reading is a fundamental part of life – truly something we need and will always use and enjoy. We want to help strengthen agriculture literacy in fun and exciting ways like reading. There are many opportunities to unlock the potential and nurture the importance of reading.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to at home maintain an advantage over children who are not read to. Children are more likely to also have a higher reading proficiency and stronger reading skills. That can lead to success in other subjects in school and throughout life. We all know children in our circle of life that we can influence in positive ways. We help them to develop reading and language skills just by taking time to read to them and their imagination develops as well.

As parents or role models we play a very important role in the lives of the children around us. We can help them, as well as show them the enjoyment than comes from taking time to read. A few simple changes in our day to day routines can make reading a bigger part of our lives:

  1. Turn off the television
  2. Put aside the computer games and telephones
  3. Teach by your example
  4. Read together
  5. Hit the library as a family

We can unlock potential and get readers excited to read about agriculture. Agriculture teaches by using real life examples and encourages readers to value their local communities and farmers as well as teaches them about where their food, fiber and fuel comes from. Here are a few great reads for the young readers you know

cowsCows by Jules Older is a lighthearted, yet informative look at cows, different breeds, what they eat, how they make milk and lots of other facts on cows. Children will enjoy the humor and fantastic pictures while the learn factual informaindextion.

Food and Farming, Then and Now by Bobbie Kalman is a wonderful book to help children see how farming, selling, preservation and preparation of food has changed over the years. Today most of our food is bought from a grocery store, but many years ago things were grown on the family farm and harvested for family use. This book helps kids see how much things have changed in food production. They learn where our food comes from and about the people that grow i51pQdBKPjnL._SX410_BO1,204,203,200_t.

Before We Eat from Farm to Table by award winning author Pat Brisson helps to show that before we eat, many people work very hard. They plant grain, catch fish, tend to animals and stock shelves to help feed our growing population. Milk doesn’t just appear in the refrigerator nor do apples grow in the bowl on the counter.

Fantastic Farm Machines by Cris Peterson gives superb examples of the monster machinery that work the fields 61jLvr7BNoL._SX431_BO1,204,203,200_across our beautiful country. Vivid color photos provide examples of different machines that do the planting, harvesting, and so much more. The author takes the reader on a journey from one farm to another to show many examples of machines from past and present. It is a great read for those who love tractors and big machines.

We invite you to get excited about reading and making a difference in the lives of the young people around you. Take time to read and read to those you’ve been given the opportunity to influence!

-Sheri

Nothing Compares to Agriculture and Learning at the Iowa State Fair

Summer is here…agriculture is happening everywhere around in the great state of Iowa. As I drive the highways across the state, I see field after field in all their glory. Whether the field is brimming with corn for as far as the eye can see or with cows grazing and soaking in the sun. During the many teacher workshops we have visited dairy farms or beef farms and learned all there was to learn from the farmers. It’s been a great time to get out and see what’s growing and happening in Iowa. It is also a sign that the 2016 Iowa State Fair is just around the corner.  We at the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation are anxiously preparing for another fair of agriculture learning!

This year we are focusing on teaching agriculture in new and exciting ways. It is so IMG_1306important for all Iowans to understand the role that agriculture has in their lives. We strive to educate all Iowans so that they can communicate the value and need of agriculture in daily living. A day does not pass by without being touched by agriculture in some way. If you had orange juice, toast and eggs this morning you were touched by agriculture. If you wore clothing with cotton in it, you were touched by agriculture. If you drove a vehicle that used ethanol, you were touched by agriculture.  We have several events planned for the Iowa State Fair help to make learning full of fun! We are bringing Ag Bingo back to the Animal Learning Center for the second year. Ag Bingo is a fast paced bingo game that teaches on many different agriculture facts and ideas. Ag Bingo is very similar to a regular bingo game, but the twist is that the bingo cards are filled with answers to agriculture questions instead of numbers.   Be the first to yell bingo, and you will win a prize! Everyone will walk away with a better understanding of the significance of agriculture and will learn lots of cool and interesting facts to share. Agriculture is such a big part of our lives.

CalIMG_2401ling all Minute-to-Win-It: Agriculture Edition contestants to the IMG_2407Animal Learning Center!  Contestants compete with 60-second challenges using household objects. This agriculture edition puts a unique twist on the popular game and incorporates agriculture related objects like corn, soybeans and dairy products into the game. It’s lots of fun to play and watch, but there is a ton of Iowa agriculture being taught as the game is played. Many players will have the chance to experience the excitement, fun, and prizes.

Our Farm to Fork cooking demonstrations take preparing a dish to a new level for IMG_1282agricultural learning. Each ingredient used in the dish is traced backed to the farm so the audience can see how it was grown and produced. Help prepare this delicious recipe and stick around for the free taste testing. Enjoy the other food displays in the Elwell Family Food Building and see if you can guess what kind of farms all of the ingredients come from.

It’s exciting to learn about agriculture. Did you know that IMG_1224students can experience being on the farm, out in the field or even inside the dairy farm without leaving classroom? FarmChat is a unique program that utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm experience directly into school classrooms.  Using a laptop at the school and a mobile device at the farm, FarmChat-GHV-Feb.2016students connect with and directly speak with the farmer. Students can see the farm and ask the farmer questions. They can even virtually ride along in the combine or 1557446_363540820494691_1018578113170134466_ntour a livestock barn all from the safety and security of their classroom.  FarmChat is a great way to teach kids about agriculture in a safe environment without the cost of transportation or loss of time in the classroom. For the first time, FarmChat is coming to the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair!  You will be able to visit two farms without leaving the fairgrounds. FarmChat will take us to visit a turkey farm in Story County and a pork farm in Polk County.

Do you enjoy creating in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for baking awesome edible treats? Submit your dish to Iowa’s Big 4 – Corn, Soy, Pork and Eggs cooking contest. Create a sweet or savory dish using one or more of the Big 4 and you just might win a monetary prize. We will have four expert judges to judge the contest and chose the winners. Agriculture definitely is used in the kitchen and we are looking for individuals that like to share their love for cooking and agriculture. Iowa ranks number 1 in production of the corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. Iowa’s also ranks within the top ten for many other agriculture commodities.

Agriculture plays such a vital role in our daily lives. We hope you can join us this year as we participate in a lot of fun and a lot of learning. Agriculture is all around you! It’s a team effort and we all need to be involved in the game.

– Sheri