Literacy for Life Grant: Nutrition Beyond the Textbook: A Life-Changing Experience

Kelly Wade, a teacher at Castle Rock Elementary School in Tulare County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Nutrition Beyond the Textbook: A Life-Changing Experience.

The goal for my class this year was to promote awareness, appreciation, and an application of a healthy lifestyle through agriculture.

To start the year off, we focused on nutrition through literature. We purchased books about agriculture and the students wrote their own stories about agriculture. The reading, research, and writing added depth and complexity to our curriculum.

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We also tied agriculture into our social studies curriculum this year. The students studied the food of Native Americans and compared it to what they eat today. Studying the different tribes and their different lifestyles really helped to makes the students more culturally aware.

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The students also studied the 13 original colonies and the different types of agriculture in each region. The students made a tri-orama with each side representing agriculture in the three different regions (New England, Middle, and Southern) and the fourth side served as an introduction. To further their research, the students also read books about the different commodities grown in the colonies.

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Through this project, the students were also able to grow trout in the classroom and then release them into the wild. The students tested water both at the school and at the local water treatment plant. They learned how important water is to our health and our community.

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Next year, I hope to expand on our agricultural theme and introduce students to many of the career opportunities in agriculture. This project has enhanced the learning and teaching in my classroom and I have shared the ideas and teaching materials I used this year with the other teachers at my school. As a result of this project, my students look at agriculture in a more positive light and they are more open to trying new foods.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/literacyforlife.

2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference

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The 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom conference, The Sweet Story of Agriculture, was held this past June in beautiful Hershey, Pennsylvania. The conference was at maximum capacity with registration selling out months beforehand.

We hopped three planes and two taxis to get to Hershey and had the second longest journey, only topped by a participant from Hawaii.

At the conference, CFAITC shared resources with educators from around the country who visited our booth and attended our three workshops featuring lessons from new and updated units, What Do Plants Need to Grow? and From STEM to Plate: Careers in Food Science. We also soaked up as much information as possible by attending workshops on common core, science literacy, STEM, agriculture issues, watershed decisions and more.

Two California educators also attended the conference: Maureen Moreno, a K-6 grade teacher from Southern California who received a White-Rinehart Scholarship award, and Ann Hennesey, a special education high school teacher from Elk Grove who was recognized as California’s Outstanding Educator of the Year. Both teachers have been longtime advocates for bringing agriculture into the classroom.

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The conference provided numerous opportunities for increasing our knowledge of agriculture. During farm tours, we visited a dairy that produces milk destined for the Hershey Chocolate factory and learned that mushrooms are one of Pennsylvania’s top agricultural commodities. A visit to Penn State’s veterinary hospital gave us a glimpse into the latest developments in large animal medicine. It was a different experience visiting farms in an area of the country where rain comes often and irrigation of crop fields is uncommon. This is hard to imagine in our drought stricken state of California.

After an action-packed week in Hershey, we returned home with our minds and suitcases full of new ideas to help California educators use agriculture as a meaningful teaching tool.

If you are looking for new and exciting ways to incorporate agriculture into your classroom, don’t miss the California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference October 16-18 in Santa Cruz County. For more conference details, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/conference.

Bon à la Beef: Kids Cooking With Beef

Here at Agriculture in the Classroom, we have been busy working on a new project in partnership with the California Beef Council, Bon à Bon a la Beef Finalla Beef! This project will educate students about beef and nutrition by featuring four professional video clips of elementary through high school students cooking beef recipes and encouraging viewers to cook with beef at home. The student-developed recipes use easy techniques and readily available ingredients.

Each of the four cooking video clips will be paired with educational lesson plans that are aligned to Content Standards for California Public Schools for students in grades 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12.

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Earlier this summer, we met with a group of educators and industry experts to develop the lessons plans which are currently being pilot tested. The lessons feature the history of beef cattle, nutrition, and planning a meal on a budget.

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Last Thursday, we worked with Access Sacramento and filmed the cooking demonstrations at the Art Institute of California – Sacramento. The students, Nicolas Come, Elisabeth Watkins, and Nichelle Crawford, were fantastic chefs! We cannot wait to see the final product. A segment with all four cooking videos will air on Access Sacramento after the final edits are made.

Stay tuned. The lesson plans and correlating videos will be available this fall!

Literacy for Life Grant: Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard

Jackie Lacey, a teacher at Kimbark Elementary School in San Bernardino County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard.

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Through this program, each class was able to grow a vegetable plant in a container garden. Each class discussed the type of plant being planted, how to care for it, and how long it would take for the plant to sprout and produce vegetables. This year, we grew tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and carrots. All 502 of the students at Kimbark Elementary School were able to participate by preparing the container, planting the seeds, or watering and caring for the plant. They students were so excited to watch their plants grow.

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As part of our environmental curriculum, we work to help students learn ways to be healthy and sustain our planet. The “Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard” project helped accomplish this goal. Container gardening is a way for all students to replicate what they have learned with their families without a huge expense or complicated procedures.

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As a result of this project, students are more aware of where their food comes from. They are starting to understand the hard work and perseverance required of farmers to bring food from the farm to the table. Coupled with the drought in California, students are more aware of how agriculture is affected by weather and land use.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/literacyforlife

Teacher Feature – Dane White

DaneWhite_180x180We asked Dane White, a high school agricultural teacher at Galt High School in Sacramento County, about his experiences with agriculture education.

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned about CFAITC when I was involved in FFA many years ago—I admired its mission and appreciated the Foundation’s attempts to teach youth about our most essential industry. Since then, I’ve worked with CFAITC on projects such as the WeGarden at the State Capitol and the Farm-to-Fork Festival and have enjoyed every experience we have been given to work with such great people to accomplish such a noble mission.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
My agriculture teacher, Sandy Lovfald of Eureka High School, is the reason I teach agriculture. She invested a ton of her energy in me and never accepted mediocrity as my personal standard—she would demand excellence from me. I knew I wanted to be an agriculture teacher the moment I was able to reflect back and realize the significant impact she made on my life—I can’t imagine where I would be without her. I’ve now taught for seven years at Galt High School and strive to make that same kind of difference in each of my students.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
There are many things about CFAITC I love—with most involving outreach. My particular favorite was last fall’s Farm-to-Fork Festival in Sacramento. I brought my students to work at an educational booth and I loved watching them engage young kids and their families in discussions about food—something they can certainly relate to! I value the work CFAITC does to bring agriculture to the forefront in events such as the Farm-to-Fork Festival.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
Aside from providing me with a purposeful vocation, I love that agriculture education constantly evolves and gives us the chance to expand our reach. I see the impact it makes on students who might otherwise not be excellent students or find a place in their high school. Every year at our graduation when I see agriculture students proudly wearing their gold merit sashes, I am filled with pride at knowing they found a home and a place that would challenge them to grow and strive. To play a role in the development of the next generation’s leadership skills and agricultural acumen is a great blessing.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
It’s the core of what I do; though the complexities of our educational system can often obscure the purpose of our agriculture classrooms, I cannot imagine teaching anything else. When students leave my class with tactile experiences and skills that give them the upper edge in a competitive job market, I know my job is worthy. I also really appreciate that agriculture’s social credibility is growing—it has opened a lot of doors for non-traditional students to find a passion in our subject area that can lead to success later in life.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
Each year presents me with a number of golden teaching moments. I’m fortunate to work in a community and at a high school that will support visionary programs that prioritize kids and as a result, my cup is filled constantly with successes. Whether it is a student showing up to an FFA meeting for the first time, having our “AG Squad” support our school’s sports teams or even just a proud student who earned their first “A” on a test, I regularly find examples that are pretty golden. This year when my Agriculture Issues Forum team won the State FFA Championship that qualified them for the national competition, I nearly exploded with happiness and pride. The students on that team have been humble workers and many of them would never have dreamt they could be state champions. That’s one of the biggest “wins” in my career thus far.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
We recently completed the Sacramento County Fair, which had nearly 90 Galt High School students involved with projects from rabbits to cattle to mechanics. Additionally, we have a poultry unit on campus and a greenhouse that was recently emptied thanks to a successful plant sale, and we’re partnering with a Lodi olive oil producer to start an olive orchard on our campus. Our mission is that students not only understand the technical aspects of agriculture, but can translate a set of competencies into success in college and careers. As such, we are implementing innovative agricultural projects that develop useful and relevant skills.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
There are a huge number of easily implemented resources available and in many cases it’s easy to begin with the FFA members of a nearby high school! Most agriculture teachers are looking for chances to engage youth with their agriculture students—an elementary teacher reaching out would be a win/win!

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today’s society?
As cliché as it may sound, agriculture is the only industry that is vital to sustain our population. Even if someone doesn’t have a career that directly involves agriculture, it’s critical that people can play a proactive role in problem-solving and innovation for agriculture. Too often those who are agriculturally illiterate will make the work of producers unnecessarily difficulty—but those who have an understanding of and appreciation for agriculture can work to create mutually beneficial solutions.

2014 CA Agriculture in the Classroom Conference: Pre-Conference Tour

logoSummer break is here for most students and teachers! As teachers and students take a well deserved break from the Monday- Friday class routine, we are continuing to plan the 2014 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, Common Core and California Crops!

We hope you have your calendars marked for October 16-18, 2014 and plan to join us and themelearn how agricultural education has been practicing Common Core concepts since before Common Core was cool! Incorporating agriculture into the classroom provides students with connections to the real world that help them develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. We are working with many agricultural and education partners to bring the most current resources and teaching strategies to conference participants.

One group we are excited to be working with is Life Lab. Life Lab teaches people to care for themselves, each other, and the world through farm and garden based programs.

lllogoLife Lab will be hosting the pre-conference tour on Thursday afternoon, On the Farm and in the Garden with Life Lab.

Participants will spend the afternoon bringing learning to life at the University of California, Santa Cruz  (UCSC) Farm and Life Lab Garden Classroom. The UCSC Farm is one of the most beautiful areas in Santa Cruz and home to the Life Lab Garden Classroom. On the tour, participants will experience firsthand how the staff at Life Lab teach thousands of students each year about farming and food through their farm walk and harvest tasting activities. Participants will gather ideas to connect the new content standards to garden-based learning in their classroom. The day will end touring the Garden Classroom, browsing edible exploration stations, and networking with others.

The pre-conference tour will be open to the first 50 registrants. The cost of the pre-conference tour is $50.

Don’t forget that conference scholarships are available! The next deadline is August 1.

Most scholarships will cover the early bird conference registration fee of $265* and includes a Thursday night reception, all meals, field trips, and resources on Friday and Saturday. A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to cover the cost of registration, hotel, and/or transportation for a total maximum value of $750.

*Recipients will be responsible for paying the initial conference fees and will be reimbursed from CFAITC after the conference

Registration is open!  Early bird registration is $265 until September 15, 2014.

For more conference information, or to register, visit www.learnaboutag.org/conference

Literacy for Life Grant Update: Farm Exchange Program

Barbara Richey, a teacher at American River Charter School in El Dorado County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Farm Exchange Program.

The Farm Exchange Program was created through the Literacy for Life Grant that we received, but will be an on-going project at our school. Our hope is that students will have an opportunity to work in the garden and care for animals including chickens and a lamb. Eight teachers will have access for their class to make regular observations of the animals and participate in their care. Farm Meetings will be held twice a month and will teach farming and ranching skills.

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This spring, we started the Farm Meetings. Using Agriculture in the Classroom curriculum, Bill Nye science activities, textbooks, and internet resources, students learned about agriculture and farm animals. Some of our meeting topics included earth worms, composting, egg incubation, seed plantings, and so much more.

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Also this year, incubators were purchased for three classrooms and an assortment of turkey and chicken eggs were placed into the incubators. The students were very attentive to the eggs and observed the hatching process. A chicken yard was built and some of the chickens were kept at the school and some were adopted by the students. This was a great opportunity for the kindergarten through third grade students that participated.

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This is just the beginning of our Farm Exchange program. We have Farm Meetings scheduled for the next school year and a school garden site has been approved. Construction of the garden will begin this summer. By the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, our goal is to make the garden and chicken yard available for all students. We will also purchase a lamb that will be kept as permanent school livestock. This will allow students to experience the growth and subsequent wool production of sheep. This program has allowed students to experience hands-on agriculture!

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/literacyforlife.

June is National Dairy Month

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National Dairy Month is a great reason to enjoy your favorite dairy product! Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese contain essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein. These nutrients are critical for the development of strong bones, teeth, and so much more!

California has been the nation’s leading dairy state since 1993! There are approximately 1.8 million dairy cows in California located on approximately 1,750 dairies. California’s land, climate, and feed supply make it a productive and desirable location for dairies. There are 5 main dairy breeds in California including Holstein (the most common), Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Ayrshire.

To celebrate National Dairy Month, try making Ice Cream in a Bag or Mozzarella cheese!

To learn more about California dairies, download our Dairy Fact and Activity Sheet. One of the many things that you will learn is how Monterey Jack cheese got its name!

Literacy for Life Grant: Cajas de Cartón

Sandra Martinez-Galvan, a teacher at Thousand Oaks High School in Ventura County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Cajas de Cartón.

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During this project, my spanish students read the book Cajas de cartón to learn about the life of Francisco Jiménez who emigrated from Mexico to California and worked for many years in the fields with his family. Jiménez’s stories help students understand how crops like cotton, strawberries, and even carrots are grown and harvested.

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The class also participated in a field trip to visit CSU Channel Islands to learn more about the Bracero program from Professor Jose Alamillo. The Bracero program was a temporary labor agreement between Mexico and the United States after World War II. The students were able to learn about its connections to California agriculture. The students also received a tour of CSU Channel Islands. On the way back from the university, we stopped at the “Farm House” and learned about the Abundant Table Farm Project which is two year farm internship for young adults interested in farming.

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This project really helped connect the students to the real world through literature. Many students were also able to learn how their food is grown and where it comes from. Agricultural literacy has so much to do with the history of Latinos in the United States and is an important part of their culture.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/literacyforlife.

Book Review: Farmer George Plants a Nation

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George Washington was not only the first president of the United States, but he was also a farmer. Introduce your students to George Washington as an innovative agriculturist with Farmer George Plants a Nation, a book by Peggy Thomas.

Through George Washington’s letters and dairies, Thomas shows readers how George Washington worked to create a self sufficient farm at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia. After the French and Indian War, George returned home to make the family plantation successful.

By rotating crops, mixing fertilizers, building barns, improving farm equipment, breeding mules, and so much more, George Washington learned all that he could about agriculture. Quotes from George Washington’s diaries add a historical and personal perspective to the story.

Even when he was called away from home to lead the colonies as the commander in chief of the Continental Army, his thoughts were never far from his plantation and through letters, he was in constant communication with his farm manager. Wherever he traveled, George Washington brought back a pocketful of seeds or nuts to experiment with on his plantation.

In 1789, George Washington was elected the first president of the United States and moved to the new capital in New York City. It was during this time that Farmer George worked to make his farming operation more efficient through better designs of the farm buildings.

After 8 years as president, George Washington returned back to his home to oversee farming operations where he lived for the rest of his life.

Through beautiful illustrations and creative writing, readers learn about a different side of George Washington, the side of a farmer and his love for agriculture.

To extend this book in your classroom, have your students learn more about some of the seeds that Farmer George planted using the Seed Match activity.