After being outside in the summer heat, Jamie Roberts, a teacher at Ladonia Elementary School in Russell County, was excited when she won the drawing to drive a tractor during the Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute. She was even more excited when she realized the tractor had air conditioning. Though the ride was bumpy, Roberts said she couldn’t wait to share the experience with her kids. That is exactly what organizers had in mind when they invited 75 kindergarten through third-grade teachers from throughout Alabama to attend the three-day conference, said Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Director Ashley Davis. “Agriculture is important to everyone, but especially our young people who are the leaders of tomorrow,” Davis said. “Decades ago, most everyone lived on a farm or was only one generation removed from farm life. Things are different today, and students need to know where their food, clothing and shelter come from. Ag in the Classroom helps teachers take that message to them at a young age in a very positive way.”The Federation provided a gift of $275,000 to fund the institute through 2004. Future AITC funding will come from the new Farming Feeds Alabama license tag.The teachers made four farm visits during the conference. For some it was their first visit to a farm. “I have never been around a farm before, and today is my first time,” said Audrey Johnson of Hatton Elementary in Lawrence County. “I have so much to go back and tell my kids. This is all amazing to me. I didn’t realize how much time and energy goes into farming. It is sad that so many kids miss out like I did. I am just now starting to learn.” Five teachers, including Roberts, drove tractors during their stop at Ronnie Holladay’s farm in Lowndes County. While Richard Holladay, Ronnie’s son, told one group about cattle, Ronnie was giving other teachers a lesson on cotton. He gave each a bag of cotton seeds, which the teachers said they could not wait to plant for their kids. He also put signs in front of cotton plants at different stages of growth.”It was fascinating to see what cotton is like at the start and then at the end, and also to hear everything a bale of cotton makes,” said Debra Perkins, a teacher at Wetumpka Elementary in Elmore County. “This made me appreciate agriculture more, and I want to help my students learn the importance of agriculture.”The teachers also toured a catfish farm, a greenhouse operation and the state’s largest pecan orchard. The teachers said the tours were invaluable.”This has been the best experience I have ever had at a workshop,” said Sandra Watson of Susie E. Allen Elementary School in Russell County. “This has been so hands on. I feel like I am going to a new, science magnet school.” In addition to the farm visits, the teachers attended workshops where they received curriculum information and project ideas to facilitate the incorporation of agriculture into daily lesson plans. “This workshop has been amazing,” said Misty Searcy, a teacher at Robinson Springs in Elmore County. “I can’t believe the amount we have covered in this short time.”For more information about AITC, contact Ashley Davis (email@example.com) at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 3280.
Teachers Plow New Ground At Summer Institute