The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Agriculture in the Classroom program is designed to help K-12 students understand the importance of agriculture. The program is coordinated by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with funding from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation, other agricultural groups and a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
It’s these last few months of school that many 4th graders will hop on the bus for what will likely be their first time interacting with a farmer and seeing where their food, fuel and fiber come from. Beth Schaefer, program coordinator, says spring is incredibly busy for volunteers talking about agriculture in classrooms and farmers opening their barn gates for students.
“This school year has been kind of that first full year back from the lockdowns and the pandemic restrictions,” she explains. “So, this year, we’ve really seen an increase in school participation.”
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation estimates 10,000 students visit a farm in a year through Agriculture in the Classroom. A lot of these tours may have veterinarians, nutritionists, or marketing experts as well so it’s an opportunity to learn what happens on a farm but also the career opportunities agriculture provides.
“The biggest feedback we receive from the students is definitely about the technology and their love of the animals,” says Schaefer. “From the parents and teacher side, they can’t believe the expertise farmers need to have on different subject areas.”
In addition to helping coordinate farm visits, Schaefer continues to keep up with an arsenal of agriculture curricula for teachers and is planning programs for the summer. ‘The Business of Agriculture’ is a book that’s supported by almost every commodity in Wisconsin to help teachers engage with students and the value of agriculture. Learn more: https://www.wisagclassroom.org/
This year they have given the book a digital component by providing an online learning platform that takes students through Wisconsin’s agriculture industries, businesses, careers, history and an overview of all of the different foods that are grown and produced by farmers here in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Agriculture in the Classroom also provides hands-on lessons and activity ideas for teachers to use in the classroom to support that online learning.
“We are gearing up for the next school year and have some great teacher trainings coming up this summer,” adds Schaefer. “We’re going to be focusing on career opportunities and developing more of those kinds of resources, so that teachers don’t have barriers of teaching agriculture or incorporating agriculture into their classes.”
The Wisconsin Agriculture in the Classroom Program is accepting applications for matching grants, up to $500, that will be awarded to groups conducting activities that promote agricultural literacy in K-12 schools. Projects that use funds toward an ongoing, sustainable education effort will receive preference over one-time programs. The application deadline is June 30.
Interested groups or schools can get an application on the Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom website at wisagclassroom.org/grants-awards/grants/matching-grants.
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