Teachers Learn How To Bring Agriculture Into Classrooms
School teachers from across the state came to the Birmingham area in June to learn how to teach their students about agriculture. About 65 school teachers participated in the Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute June 1-3, which was held in Birmingham and included trips to farms in nearby counties. Teachers were given the chance to not only hear about agriculture, but also receive some hands-on training.The AITC program was started in 1981 by a coalition of commodity groups, educators and government entities, under the guidance of the USDA. The program came about as educators and commodity groups sought to reintegrate agriculture into general education. It had become separated as the number of people involved in agriculture shrank.The AITC Summer Institute, now in its sixth year, seeks to educate teachers about Alabama agriculture and equip them to more effectively integrate agricultural lessons into their curricula. This year, AITC took teachers to the Blue Bell Creameries in Sylacauga to see the manufacturing process and to view the Mobile Dairy Classroom, which is available to visit their schools.This year’s participants received educational materials and heard from farmers and speakers involved in agriculture. They also attended “make-and-take” sessions, where the teachers got to try classroom activities and make something to take back home.Many teachers said they had never been to an in-service training where they received so much information, according Kim Earwood, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Division. “They had an opportunity to see the different farms and see what might be available to them in their areas for school field trips.”The teachers who participated said they gained a lot from the program.”I have thoroughly enjoyed it. We have gotten a lot of very good materials to use in the classroom,” said Stephanie Cornett, a fifth-grade teacher at Brent Elementary in Bibb County. “Even though [I teach at] a rural school, they don’t necessarily know anything about agriculture as far as cows and chickens and stuff like that. They’ve seen pictures, and they may have been to a farm, but some of them have not been much farther than Tuscaloosa.”Many of the teachers planned to integrate what they learned into their teaching curricula in an effort to both increase students’ knowledge of agriculture and improve the quality of the students’ education.”Any time you can go out and get hands-on experience and see the actual products and commodities in Alabama, you just gain more knowledge–working directly with the farmers,” said Mary Davis, a third-grade teacher at Mt. Carmel Elementary in Madison County. “Getting to the see the actual products that are grown in the field from start to finish is a great thing to see and to take back to the classroom. Improving math and science is my goal in using a lot of these lessons and developing them into the curriculum everyday.”The AITC Summer Institute is funded, in part, by proceeds from Farming Feeds Alabama license plates.For more information about Ag in the Classroom, visit www.alabamaaitc.org or contact Earwood at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 3280 or email@example.com.