Ag in the Classroom is Making a Positive Impact on Students
Before I delve into the main topic of today’s blog, I want to make a quick mention about mental health. Governor Branstad defends the plan to close two Iowa mental health facilities and there are threats of lawsuits being filed. What’s right? What’s the proper way to proceed?
Here in Franklin County IA, we’ve invited local mental health experts to attend our next Farm Bureau board meeting with the intent of becoming as informed as we can. Our board tries to make a difference in all areas of our community, not only with farm issues.
Last Friday morning I was on my way to an Ag in the Classroom board meeting, when an incident happened that made me even more interested in investigating mental health issues. I was driving down the highway – before daybreak – when an oncoming set of headlights suddenly crossed into my lane. No swerving, no slowing down. Those lights came straight at me! Without time to even click off my cruise, I took the shoulder.
Because this car came directly at me, it made me question the driver’s intent. Was this person suffering from health – even mental health – issues? Concerned that the safety of other drivers was a stake, I considered calling 911. But what could I report? It happened so fast, I wasn’t even sure if it was a car or pickup. Nonetheless, it was a wakeup call!
Now about what I really want to talk about this week…
While speaking at a 140 conference in Des Moines a few years ago, I shared how our North Central Ag in the Classroom program helps educate students about farming and its importance to our state. In attendance was Desmund Adams, who had grown up in Chicago. He asked why we don’t do Ag in the Classroom in Chicago. He shared how growing up he didn’t know meat came from an animal; he grew up thinking meat simply came from the grocery store.
Unfortunately, people without a direct connection to farming only know what they hear and see through images portrayed by Disney® cartoons or those in a Little Golden Book like Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Helping Iowa students know their food comes from the farm, not the grocery store, is a goal of the North Iowa Ag in the Classroom.
The vision for this program started in 1998, but it took several years to organize. An IRS 501(c)3 organization formed in July of 2004. Since then, North Iowa Ag in the Classroom has grown to five employees, who work with 28 schools in 10 counties, thanks in part to sponsors like Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. The AITC programs reached nearly 9,000 kids during the 2013-2014 school year.
It is one thing to create curriculum, but it’s an entirely different matter to have the opportunity to present that material in the classroom. I honestly believe in-person presentations by AITC staff are having great impact. Last year AITC reached another 571 students in special request. In the classroom with presentations on a variety of subjects. Classroom presentation, as well as farm tours, may be requested by teachers at any time of the year. Farm tours also are organized upon request, and last year 201 students went on tours of area farms.
North Iowa Ag in the Classroom provides students with a broad view of farming. Most AITC counties sponsor an Ag Fair Day, which last year reached 1,039 first through fourth grade students. Ag Fair Days allow students to learn about a variety of topics such as healthy food, conservation, livestock, farm safety, and machinery.
By connecting farming to food and the classroom, it’s my hope that we’ll help kids develop critical thinking skills. By improving the knowledge young people have of farming and food production, it’s our hope that the younger generation will know better than to accept information from Dr. Oz and the Food Babe as truthful and factual. If kids acquire more knowledge, perhaps such misinformation won’t be quite as effective.
Together we can make a difference! Contact Linda Anderegg about how you can support Ag in the Classroom efforts, or feel free to contact me for more information.