New English Language Arts Competition: A Bushel of Stories

English Language Arts is a very important subject in K-12 schools. To help support teachers in this venture, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation is hosting a new writing competition called A Bushel of Stories.

The objective is simple: students in grades 3-8 are invited to write a story about food or agriculture with a chance at becoming a real, published author!

The new contest comes with a series of lesson plans. There are six total lessons, three for grades 3-5 and three for grades 6-8, that help teach key ideas about parts of a story, book vocabulary, and how to write a story. Each of the six lessons have also been written as virtual lesson plan format.

What are the rules?

All Iowa students in grades 3-8 are welcome to participate. Students should write a story about food or agriculture that include accurate depictions of agriculture (though fiction stories are allowed). Final projects must be submitted by March 1 to be eligible to win the contest.

For the full rules and guidelines, please read this document.

What are the prizes?

There will be six students awarded. First, second, and third place for the elementary division (grades 3-5), and the same for the middle school division (grades 6-8).

First place students in each division will become a real, published author, and their story will be semi-professionally illustrated, printed, and made available to Iowa educators free of charge. First place students will also receive a $100 cash prize, a plaque, and a certificate for the teacher.

Second place students will have their name and book title noted on the first place winner’s book. They will also receive $75, a plaque, and a certificate for their teacher. Third place students will also have their name and book title noted on the first place winner’s book, will receive $50, a plaque, and a certificate.

How do I get started?

No registration is necessary for this competition, but several resources are available to you!

Begin the program by reviewing the full rules and guidelines. Each division has slightly different requirements, and you will want to make sure your students’ work is eligible.

Next, consider working through the lesson plans available to you. Each lesson plan is aligned to Iowa’s English Language Arts standards and the National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes. These lesson plans will help your students understand concepts like elements of a plot, how to edit and revise writing, how to write a summary, how to research, and much, much more!

These lesson plan resources paired with IALF’s Lending Library give educators everything they need to be able to execute this program. The skills students will learn by participating will help them be more effective writers, readers, and communicators overall.

Don’t miss out! We’d love to read your students’ stories in just a few short months.

-Chrissy

What a Perfect Time for a FarmChat® Virtual Field Trip!

Students in Iowa have returned to school. Some classes are being held in person while some students are connecting with teachers online. No matter what the school day looks like, an opportunity to visit a real farm is hard to pass up. Sign the permission slips? Pack the lunches? Send home reminders to wear layers and appropriate shoes? Load up the buses? Drive for miles and miles IF the weather is right? Or… skip all the hassle and schedule a FarmChat® virtual field trip! 

While actual field trips require days, if not weeks of planning and are being postponed due to the pandemic, a FarmChat® program is the ideal alternative solution. FarmChat®, or a virtual field trip, is a 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, students 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 tour a livestock barn all from the safety and security of their classroom. A virtual field trip!

Benefits of a FarmChat® virtual field trip include:

  • Safety. Most working farms are not able to host large number of students. Real farms can hold real dangers if students have not been properly instructed about farm safety. Teachers are able to focus on the topics intended and the learning if students are not required to be shepherded from place to place.
  • Experiences. It can be difficult or impossible to show 25-30 students the same thing at the same time. While 2-3 are watching a cow be milked the rest of a class may decide to test out their “waterproof” boots in a nearby puddle. Focusing on the screen in a classroom allows the entire group to experience the details as if they were watching in person. Also, a working farm has many different sights, sounds, and smells. By visiting from their classrooms, students can see and hear the farmer better then if they were standing in a large group.
  • Saving time. The virtual field trip will last around 20-30 minutes. In that time kids can focus on the experience, and then return to their regularly scheduled day. This means less time away from school and more time to discuss what students have learned.
  • No permission slips. Having a virtual field trips allows students to explore a real farm, without leaving the school grounds.
  • No transportation costs. Students are engaged and focused on the farm directly from their desks. With no need to find a bus driver or arrange for transportation, schools are not limited by funding.
  • Standards. By taking students on a virtual field trip they are able to make real world connections to the topics they are learning in school.

Harrison County farmer explains the process, as well as some of the challenges, of baling hay during a summer FarmChat®.

Local farmers are interested in sharing what they do. And teachers want to teach about local crops and livestock. Connecting the components has never been easier and is only limited by the connectivity of a cellular network. Here is a list of frequently asked questions that can help with planning a FarmChat® program.

Start planning your FarmChat® a virtual farm experience today. Reach out to your local county coordinator and let your virtual ag-venture begin.

-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.”

 

6 Reasons to Apply for an Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher Supplement Grant

We know that teachers are always looking for new ways to engage students, but funding for classroom resources is limited.  We have a solution!

This week we kicked off another year of the Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher Supplement Program. Since 2003, teachers have utilized these grants to fund innovative lessons, classroom resources, outreach programs, field trips and more!

With funding from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation offers $200 grants to support the integration of agriculture into preschool-12th grade in-school and afterschool programs. The subject-area focus of the grant changes each year to allow a variety of projects to receive funding and encourage teachers to consider incorporate agriculture across the curriculum. This year’s focus areas are agriculture in literacy/language arts OR agriculture in social studies.

Not convinced yet, here’s a few reasons to apply:

1.  Agriculture is a topic students can easily connect with because it is all around us! Nearly everything we eat, wear, use — even the fuel that powers cars and buses — comes from plants and animals grown on farms.

2.   Agriculture provides real-world connections to Iowa Core Standards.  Teaching about agriculture in Iowa is an ideal way for students to learn what their state is all about and provide real-life connections to all subjects.

  • Tip:  On the application, be sure to specifically describe what your students will learn about agriculture through your project– not just how a topic, like Iowa history or technology, relates to agriculture.

3.  Social Studies, Social Studies, Social Studies!  Iowa recently adopted new social studies standards, and many have strong connections to agriculture!  Here’s just few examples:

-1st Grade: Describe the diverse cultural makeup of Iowa’s past and present in the local community, including indigenous and agricultural communities. (SS.1.23)

-2nd Grade: Identify how people use natural resources to produce goods and services. (SS.2.12)

-4th Grade: Explain how Iowa’s agriculture has changed over time. (SS.4.26)

-6th Grade: Explain how changes in transportation, communication, and technology influence the movement of people, goods, and ideas in various countries. (SS.6.18)

-7th Grade: Analyze the role that Iowa plays in contemporary global issues. (SS.7.27)

  • Tip: Take a look at the National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes for more ideas about what students should know about agriculture as it relates to the study of culture, society, economy and geography. Social Studies content is in orange print.

4.  It’s a great way to build your classroom library. Books are a perfect way for students to learn about agriculture! Incorporate books with an agricultural theme into a language arts or social studies lesson described in the application.  Then add them to your classroom library to be enjoyed by students for years to come.

  • Tip: Take a look at the books in the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s Lending Library for ideas. We have over 200 titles, and you can even check them out to review before buying your own.

5.  Funding for field trips is hard to come by. Take students to learn about agriculture first-hand at a farm, museum or historic site. Iowa’s many agriculture museums and historic sites offer tours and self-guided opportunities to learn about Iowa’s agricultural history.

  • Tip:  Be sure to include what you will do in the classroom before and after the field trip to make the most of the learning experience.  If you are learning about agriculture long-ago during the field trip, describe ways your students will compare and contrast that to farming today once they return.

6.  It’s easy!  Many grant applications take hours to complete and require long essays, spreadsheets with details budgets, administrator approval, and more.  Not this one! It only has 10 questions, and most have short answers. Head on over to the application page, create a log-in, and get started.

  • Tip:  Take a look at the application questions now, think about project ideas, and return later to finish. Once you start the application, you can save and return as often as necessary before January 10, 2018.

-Cindy

 

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

 

 

 

Three Ways to Help Students Use Text Features

Issue 6Getting students to read from a wide variety of texts is often a challenge in the classroom. Some of the challenges can be time, resources, and ways to help the students access all the different types of texts. Many teachers are using the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s student magazine, Iowa Ag Today to offer rich non-fiction text into their learning.

Rich student discussions can occur about the author’s purpose in the nonfiction text of Ag Today. The most common purposes of this type of text are to explain, inform, to teach how to do something, to express an opinion, or to persuade readers to do or believe something. Knowing the differences between nonfiction and fictional text can truly help students understand the meaning better.

Ag Today is aesthetically pleasing to readers as it offers text features to help them understand the text. These text features include and are not limited to print features such as bold print, symbols and icons; graphic aids like maps, charts and timelines; illustrations including photographs, drawings, or cartoons. It is imperative for teachers to explicitly teach students about using these features to help them with their understanding of the information presented.  Here are three ways to do this:

1.  Model through a think aloud. Talk through how you as a reader would tackle the text and how you would use the text features to help understand the text. Look at each page and ask students how an illustration helps them in their reading, or look at a map and ask why the map was added to the text. Students need to have conversations on the importance of text features in their reading to help them use them to better understand their reading. Teachers can also use this time to have students make predictions about what the text may be about after looking at text features.

2. Create a quick reference for to students to access when using text features. Here is an example list students can insert into their working notebooks or turn into posters for the classroom wall:

  • Maps: Help a reader visualize where places are in the state, nation, or world.
  • Captions: Can help understand a picture or photograph.
  • Illustrations or photographs: Help to visualize the text and make it real. They may also help determine what is important within the text.
  • Special print: Look for bold, italics, or underlined words to determine key vocabulary.
  • Graphs: Can help understand important data within the text and assist in interpreting.

Issue 6 centerfold

In this example from Issue 6, text features are used to draw attention, provide additional information, and help students visualize and understand what they read.

3.  Using Ag Today in the classroom not only helps with reading of nonfiction texts, but it also offers opportunities for students to write. Teachers can preview the text with students and then have them write questions they may have about the text features they see. In addition, there are many think and discuss prompts within the text for students to talk with another student and to write their thoughts as well. This truly helps students realize the importance of discussing, reflecting, and writing about what they are reading.

Students reading Ag Today - Issue 2In conclusion, it is imperative for students to have access to multiple types of texts in the classroom. Ag Today is an excellent example to use for not only various content areas but also learning how to use text features for understanding. I would encourage teachers to start with a few strategies such as the ones shared here and slowly add more as you see students becoming more familiar with using text features. Happy reading in your classroom!

-Jody Still Herbold, Education Consultant, Northwest AEA

Put the Ag in TAG!

Talented and Gifted (TAG) students have a wide variety of strengths and interests, and Talented and Gifted programs have a lot of freedom in how to learn or what to learn about.

Some students are excelled in reading and need more challenging texts. Others find math simple and would benefit from different problems. Many TAG students could benefit from problem solving projects and research projects.

What’s unique about agriculture is that it can fit all of these needs. There are agriculture books written for pre-K levels all the way up to and past collegiate level texts. Agriculture business and economics provide real-world examples of math and can help motivate students when given those examples. And what better industry to study when looking to solve problems? Topics like conservation, genetic engineering, world hunger, and so many others can be great topics for research, debate, and presentations.

Here at IALF, we house lots of resources available for Iowa teachers to check out or use free of charge. Our Lending Library is stocked with books, games, kits, and DVDs of varying grade levels and topics. This can be a great place to start if students are looking for reference material for a research project. Many of our books are specific to a crop or livestock specie, but there are many other gems. For instance, the film Temple Grandin, outlines the life of one of the most brilliant animal scientists in history. The Man Who Fed the World, talks about Norman Borlaug and his great strides in plant pathology that saved over one billion lives!

TAG students, like all other students, also like to play games! Our Lending Library also houses games like Ag Cranium, which puts a fun agriculture spin on Cranium, and Plant Match, which teaches students about the developmental stages of plants, while playing a fun matching game!

On our website, we also have a database of lesson plans that are ready to download and put directly into use. There, you can find things like GMO Decisions, which is a lesson that discusses the differences in types of genetic engineering and allows for debate and deeper understanding of a complex and modern issue. Our Watershed Decisions and Whey Waste lesson plans also allow for discussion, debate, and creativity to solve real problems that people today face.

The National Association for Gifted Children has a set of six standards that can be used to align to TAG efforts. Within these standards, you find phrases like culturally relevant curriculum, cultural competence, communication competence, collaboration, career pathways, and ethics. The world of agriculture is never short of career possibilities, or the need to solve culturally relevant issues together, while discussing ethical implications.

TAG provides a unique opportunity for students to go above and beyond in any subject the student is excelling in. Agriculture provides countless outlets for these students to learn, interact, discuss, and discover a wide variety of important and relevant topics.

For a full list of IALF’s resources, please visit our website at www.iowaagliteracy.org. If you are looking for a specific resource (like books on Henry A. Wallace, the byproducts of pigs, or how combines work), send us an email or call us at info@iowaagliteracy.org or 515-331-4181. We know there is something here that you can use!

 

–Chrissy

Summer 2016 Professional Development

#IAaitcPD

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This summer, our staff assisted in hosting eight different professional development workshops across the state. Each workshop consisted of one tour day and one day in the classroom. The tours visited a wide variety of farms and agribusinesses, which helped teachers learn more about agriculture concepts, how they tie to other subject areas, and the potential career opportunities for their students.

The tours ranged from dairy farms and beef cattle farms, to a tomato and aquaculture farm, children’s museum, grain cooperatives, ethanol refineries, implement dealerships, grocery warehouses, a wind farm, implement factory, greenhouses and even a genetics laboratory. At ethanol refineries, we were able to talk about chemistry, biochemistry, marketing, and energy issues. At the various farm operations, we were able to discuss biology, biosecurity, health, safety, logistics, and marketing. At implement dealerships and factories, we were able to discuss engineering, science, and the challenges that farmers face that agriculture engineers work to solve.

The second day of the workshops focused on tying the concepts from the first day into subject areas like science, social studies, language arts, and math. Teachers got to walk through hands-on activities and lesson plans that bridge these concepts.

During these workshops, we documented our experiences. Check out our Storify story to see some social media posts.

We also documented the workshops with a short video. Give it a few minutes and learn about what we did this summer!

-Chrissy

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

Great Teachers Create Great Students

Research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. It is increasingly critical for new and experienced educators to be trained so they can relay those experiences to their students.

Teachers can take advantage of a number of different professional development opportunities to learn from each other and learn from other experts in the field. This ongoing learning keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools, new curriculum resources, and much more. The best professional development is experiential and collaborative. It should be connected to working with students, understanding their culture, and making learning real and relevant.

IMG_2063Through a series of workshops this summer, teachers across Iowa get the chance to participate in experiential and student focused professional development. These workshops use agriculture as the context to teach science, social studies, language arts, and other subject.

Each two-day workshop is set up with one field day and one classroom day. The field days take teachers to see firsthand farms, feedlots, dairies, co-ops, ethanol production plants, and other agribusinesses. Many of these businesses are hallmarks for the community yet we don’t understand what they do. The classroom day helps teachers break down what they saw on the tours into manageable lessons and activities that they can take back and implement in their classrooms.

Integrating Science

IMG_2052One of the stops of the workshop hosted in Tabor, Iowa was to a beef cattle feedlot that recently installed a monoslope barn. Monoslope barns might not be much to look at, but they utilize a number of different scientific concepts to provide a comfortable environment for the cattle. The building is built with an east-west alignment. This alignment keeps the cattle cool and shaded during the summer months and allows for maximum sunlight during the winter months. The pitch of the roof allows for heat to rise and be siphoned off very efficiently. Even though it is open air, there can be as much as a 15-degree temperature difference between the inside of the building and the outside of the building. The narrow opening on the north side of the building also takes advantage of the Venturi effect and promotes a lot of air flow through the building.

Integrating Social Studies

Journey 2050 Final Logo Illustrated_HIGH_RGBOne of the new resources that teachers are learning about is Journey 2050. This online gaming platform explores what sustainable agriculture really means. It looks at farmers in Kenya, India, and Canada. By understanding how farmers in different parts of the world are different and how they are the same we can begin to apply different social studies concepts. We can discuss the geography of those regions that create limiting factors. We can discuss the economics of those regions that might lead to the success or failure of those farmers. And we can discuss all of the factors that contribute to sustainability including profits, jobs, community, food, education, health, infrastructure, soil, water, and greenhouse gases.

Integrating Language Arts

IMG_2186Teachers who attended the workshops were introduced to a variety of resources to help supplement language arts lessons including Iowa Ag Today and My Family’s Beef Farm. Using these resources, students can practice contextual reading and begin to understand farming. Using teaching strategies like close reading, context clues, visualization, fluency, self-questioning, and making tracks, teachers can teach language arts to their students. This can boost reading, writing, and speaking skills easily aligning to standards.

Learn more about these workshop and other upcoming workshops. Great teachers make great students! With ongoing education, we can ensure that our students have the best possible chance for future success. The workshops were made possible with support from the Iowa Energy Center, the CHS Foundation, and the Monsanto Fund.

-Will