By Debra Davis
Teachers who want to bring the outdoors inside to students should attend the Alabama Agriculture In The Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute — according to Britney Jones, a kindergarten teacher from Spring Garden Schools who attended this year’s program May 29-31 in Florence.
The institute included integrated agricultural activities for grades K-6 and farm field trips for the 83 educators who attended.
“My favorite part was visiting the farms and looking behind the scenes at how they operate,” said Jones, 33. “I also loved the workshops. I learned so many things that I know my students will be interested in, and we got lots of supplies and materials to help get them engaged. The entire program was filled with ideas, lessons and resources I can take back to my students.”
Farm tour stops included Spry Mitchell Cattle Farm in Florence, Clemmons and Hamner Seed Inc. in Killen and LouAllen Produce Farm in Moulton.
A panel of local farmers also answered questions from teachers. Subjects included poultry production, the environment, precision agriculture, GMOs and consumer perceptions.
Greg Hamner, a farmer and owner of Clemmons and Hamner Seed Co., is a former ag education teacher who said he was excited to have teachers visit the farm and tour its seed-cleaning and -packaging facility.
“I want them to understand how seed is grown and produced,” Hamner said. “That’s why we carried the teachers to our wheat field — so they can understand how wheat is harvested and becomes seed for another farmer to plant and grow crops.”
Teachers took home more than knowledge and experiences. Drawings were held for 10 incubators and egg scope kits valued at $360 each, along with eight soybean science kits for classroom experiments worth over $500 each. Each teacher received numerous books, educator guides, resource guides and classroom activity materials.
AITC Steering Committee Chairman Kim Earwood said Summer Institute is one of her favorite events.
“It’s always great to see how excited the teachers get and how appreciative they are,” Earwood said. “I think the program helps renew their spirit, and they are grateful to receive so many materials to help introduce agriculture to their students.”
In addition to the summer program, AITC also sponsors mini grants, excellence in teaching awards and opportunities to attend national AITC conferences.
The Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries partner to provide the institute. Much support is provided by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, which is primarily funded by the sale of ag tag license plates. For more information, visit AlabamaAITC.org.
View photos from Summer Institute on the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Facebook, Instagram and Flickr pages.