Teacher Resource Program Fosters Passion for Ag in Youth
School is in full swing across the state and even though things may look a little different this year, agriculture education continues to place the importance on the basics of teaching youth about where their food comes from.
Ag in the Classroom exposes as many Illinois students as possible to farming practices and agriculture. Illinois Corn Marketing Board helps fund Ag in the Classroom with checkoff dollars. These invested dollars pay dividends in the form of consumer education and developing the next generation of agriculture leaders and informed consumers.
Each county has a trained Ag in the Classroom Coordinator who helps facilitate lesson plans, field trips and other talking points. They work directly with roughly 40,000 teachers who then spread the message along with the county coordinators to 600,000 students.
Their main audience are those in grades K-6 because it is easier for teachers to take ten minutes out of reading time or science to incorporate ag compared to junior high and high school where the teacher would have to take the whole class period out. One of the most popular lessons aimed at younger students is using biodegradable corn-based packing peanuts to construct art projects. The lesson showcases corn’s versatility and ability to be used as a renewable source.
Illinois Farm Bureau Education Director, Kevin Daugherty, who oversees Illinois’ Ag in the Classroom program said, “The ability to adapt and give kids local examples of agriculture they can apply to their lives is my favorite part.”
In addition to working with students, teachers typically attend Summer Ag Institute, a popular event in which they receive hands on training and educational demonstrations from their local county Ag in the Classroom coordinator. The training often includes field trips to local farms or ag businesses which help showcase firsthand the importance of incorporating agriculture in their lessons.
“Our goal with summer ag institute is to really immerse them in a local look of ag. Every county is different in terms of what they teach and because we have county level folks, they are able to customize the look of their local areas and make the content really applicable,” said Daugherty.
Using Illinois corn checkoff funding, Ag in the Classroom continues to bring the importance of corn and other agriculture products to life for students across the state.