By Lakin Whatley
Teachers across Alabama gathered in Opelika to learn about agriculture and how to implement it in their schools at the Alabama Ag In The Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute June 16-18.
The program allowed 78 teachers to become students while they attended farm field trips and participated in agricultural education activities.
“You don’t realize how important agriculture is until you learn all the things the industry provides,” said Sueanne Strickland, a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Conecuh Springs Christian School in Bullock County. “I am excited to take this information back to my students, and I hope they realize the impact agriculture has on our lives.”
Workshop speakers included Hollie Terry, director of School Programs at the Alabama Nature Center, and Jana Miller with the Dairy Alliance.
“I liked how the speakers related agriculture to traditional elementary subjects such as math and science,” said Strickland. “I received some great ideas on how to integrate agriculture into the subjects I teach.”
Farm tours included Blue Ribbon Dairy in Tallassee, Whippoorwill Vineyards in Notasulga and Lazenby Farms in Auburn.
A panel of four local farmers answered questions from teachers at lunch during the tour. Topics included beef production, the timber industry, precision agriculture and labor issues.
A wealth of knowledge is not all the teachers took back to their classrooms. Each teacher received a kit with numerous books, posters, educator guides and other classroom activities valued at $375 each. Drawings were held for teachers who won classroom supplies, egg incubators, egg scopes and soybean science kits.
LaTonja Henderson, media specialist at Reeltown Elementary School, was excited about the resources and materials she received as a summer institute attendee.
“As a librarian in a rural area, I have students with agricultural backgrounds, and I felt I needed more resources relating to them,” she said. “I now have a stack of agricultural-based books to take back to the school.”
AITC Steering Committee Chair Kim Earwood said teachers were excited to attend after the 2020 AITC summer institute was canceled.
“One educator told me, ‘In 26 years of teaching, this is the most informative workshop I have been to, and I actually have some curriculum I can use,’” Earwood said. “That’s why we feel this institute is so important to agriculture as well as teachers and students.”
Each year, Alabama AITC provides grants for classroom projects that integrate agriculture into curriculum areas during the school year.
The Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries collaborate to provide the institute. The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, primarily funded by the sale of ag tag license plates, also provides support to the program.
For more information, visit AlabamaAITC.org.