A squeal of excitement, a welcoming smile and a curious and anxious mind is commonly found among third graders participating in a new interactive agricultural education program, entitled “Ag Education on the Move.”
Ag Education on the Move is an interactive ten-week program that teaches students about food and farm families. The program involves regional educators, who visit classrooms once a week for ten weeks, to discuss food, nutrition, and how farmers provide them with every day products.
They are especially excited for their agricultural lesson, says Mrs. Carroz, a third grade teacher from Hannibal, Mo., who participated in the education program this fall. “Students looked forward to each lesson and learned about concepts that impact their daily lives. We are surrounded by agriculture, but our students know little about it,” Carroz said.
On their first day, students take an introductory quiz to determine what they know about agriculture, how and where their food is produced, and general items about crops and livestock. Students are encouraged to identify their favorite foods, and indicate where they believe it was produced. At the conclusion of the ten-week program, students complete the same quiz to monitor their progress.
One of the important concepts of the program is allowing students to experience hands-on agriculture. Students see, taste, smell, and touch agriculture. Whether it is tasting dairy products or smelling feed samples, students interact in a way that leaves a lasting impression.
Students create edible soil profiles when learning about soil conservation, as well as bread in a bag, trail mix feed rations, and on the last day students make pizzas while identifying where ingredients come from and their “real time” production.
Ideally, taking students and teachers to a farm would create the greatest experience of all, but time and resources are limited. Virtual tours are the next best thing and students take a virtual tour of a poultry, pork, beef, and a dairy farm. They learn about modern housing and animal health and welfare, feed, and crop systems. Students also identify farming equipment involved in producing and harvesting crops. Farmers take students around their farm to discuss temperature controlled housing, feed, animal care, and what happens to the product once it leaves their farm.
Ultimately, students develop an understanding of how farm families work hard to ensure they provide safe and wholesome food. “It is important we put a face with their food,” said Amanda Smith, an agriculture education student at the University of Missouri and an educator for Ag Education on the Move. “It is amazing how much students learn over a ten week period. On their tenth week, they are overflowing with information and so excited to share. It is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.”
Missouri Farmers Care is working to expand the program to include more urban schools and communities in the future. “The students loved it and learned so much,” said Jane Kruse, a third grade teacher at Westran Elementary.
Program curriculum objectives meet Missouri State Standards. Teachers and parents also receive educational packets with an adult and consumer perspective.
Ag Education on the Move will begin its second semester this spring in over twenty schools. Educators, under the direction of Missouri Farmers Care, will continue to work together to provide an educational experience for third grade students across the state.
For more information on the program, to receive agricultural lesson plans, or to participate in the program, please contact Missouri Farmers Care at info@MOFarmersCare.com.