Elementary school teacher Heather Law developed an ag literacy program to help her students become more aware of their food sources.
“To me, being an agvocate means informing others of current practices and information about agriculture, but also being open to a symbolic relationship of learning with others,” says Heather. “Now that I have an audience of young and eager learners, I definitely feel the responsibility to be an agvocate.”
Heather is a grade 5/6 teacher in Huntsville, Ontario, where the town is surrounded by lush forest and wildlife, and the students gravitate toward bushcraft activities. So incorporating experiential education into her classes was a natural fit and a great way to tie in an engaging hands-on agriculture literacy course.
“My voice for positive and truthful discussions around agriculture and food has fostered some wonderful relationships with my students and the rest of the school community,” says Heather.
Farm of the Month, Heather’s ag literacy program, focuses on a different type of agriculture each month and digs into the farm-to-fork process to help students develop a better understanding of their food sources. She organizes a field trip with each unit and includes other hands-on components if there isn’t a locally accessible farm that fits with the theme.
Examples of some of the units are: land (they made soil from raw materials); fruits and vegetables (they attended a cranberry festival and local vegetable farm); grains (they grew wheat and baked bread); dairy (they visited her family’s farm); and they ended the year with an ag literacy grad (the students received certificates and an Ag More Than Ever t-shirt).
“The sensory experience and travelling near or far to different agriculture sites and farms was a mutually rewarding experience for the students and farm owners,” explains Heather. “The farmers often expressed how keen the students were to really embrace the farm and to use many of their senses to get the full experience.”
Heather was able to engage the parents, teachers and her principal because she connected her program with the curriculum and they saw how excited the students were when they returned from their tours and lessons. Parents also noticed how the hands-on activities gave their children a deeper understanding of how food gets to their tables and what implications are involved in the process.
“We have seen how this education has informed our son’s choices while shopping and extended his appreciation for agriculture overall,” says a parent of one of the children in Heather’s class last year.
If you’re considering organizing a similar type of program or unit, try incorporating a variety of hands-on activities and resources, such as videos, infographics and articles from sites like Ag More Than Ever, 4-H Canada, Agriculture in the Classroom and Farm and Food Care Canada, to give students a well-rounded lesson.
“By giving your audience basic facts and figures that are comprehensive and relatable, you can engage people to discuss Canadian agriculture in a positive way.” Heather says it’s important for everyone in the industry to take an active role in promoting agriculture. “Being an agvocate that is directly in the industry is such a rewarding experience.”