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CCFB News» June 2024

At the Farm GateAg for Every Classroom

06/04/2024 @ 8:30 am | By Joanie Stiers

Free resources use agriculture to teach core subjects


Last summer, a Chicago teacher told me how excited she was to soil her undies for her students when the new school year started.


The second-grade teacher and her students buried cotton underwear in the school courtyard as a “Soil Your Undies” science experiment through Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. Periodically, they dug up the undies to observe and record decomposition to measure the soil’s health and microbial activity.


The teacher used agriculture as an avenue to teach science after her attendance at a Summer Agricultural Institute hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. This summer, 40 institutes will take place across the state, providing pre-K-to-12 teachers an enjoyable, well-spent way to earn required Professional Development Units while they gain hands-on experiences, receive free teaching materials and take adult field trips to local farms.


The raving reviews of the institutes are no surprise given the nationally recognized success of Illinois Ag in the Classroom, which provides agriculture-based curriculum resources for free to teachers year-round. Topics of Illinois-grown pumpkins, apples, corn, soybeans, dairy, pork, pollinators and more serve as the vehicle to teach science, literature, math, STEM and social studies. In each topic area, students learn about agricultural careers, increasing awareness of the state’s top employer and the overlooked job opportunities within the industry. The available curricular resources are relevant to student life and correlate to Illinois Learning Standards with various delivery options.


My favorites are the two dozen magazines called “Ag Mags” that highlight a single ag topic with vibrant images and graphics that benefit readers of any age. Double-sided classroom posters turn from themes of apples to agriculture’s part in football. Lesson plans have students making ice cream in a bag and grinding wheat to make flour. Digital resources work well with Chromebooks or smart boards. Translations in Spanish and French allow materials to reach more students.


Accessibility to resources gives Illinois Ag in the Classroom its edge. Materials are free online and through local county Farm Bureaus, which employ county coordinators to manage distribution of materials and even provide no-cost, in-classroom presentations. This valuable classroom resource is a concept to embrace: Let’s use Illinois’ No. 1 industry of agriculture to understand the food, fiber and energy products that impact our lives, explore careers that surround us and teach core subjects in engaging ways – whether through pumpkins, pollinators, corn, cows or underwear.


About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family, growing corn, soybeans and hay and raising beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.

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