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Connecting classrooms to farms

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Oklahoma

Urban kids love to hear about animals, food and dirt says Ag in the Classroom Coordinator Dana Bessinger. With the AITC curriculum, they get plenty of lessons on all three subjects.

"Kids are so far removed from the farm. We want them to know farmers in Oklahoma provide safe, affordable, nutritious food," Bessinger said.

Every lesson in the AITC curriculum is aligned to the PASS skills required by the State Department of Education. The agricultural literacy program helps kids connect what they learn in the classroom to what they see in the world around them. They get a deeper understanding of the food and fiber industry and have fun doing lessons designed for pre-K through eighth grade.

Bessinger is one of three coordinators for the program sponsored jointly by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the State Department of Education and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. The coordinators spent the summer providing professional development to the state's teachers including a one-day "Bring It to the Table" bus tour in June for teachers, nutritionists and food directors. That was followed by a three-day road trip in mid-July where teachers toured farms.

The July 29 summer conference in Oklahoma City attracted over 400 teachers from school districts of every size. The teachers enjoyed practicing hands-on techniques for incorporating agricultural knowledge into every subject.

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi provided a welcome and noted, "Ag in the Classroom programs fit in perfectly with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative and my 3R plan."

Conference keynote speaker and author Sharon Lovejoy told the educators, "Plants and critters in the garden are the best way to reach children."

Full-day or partial-day professional development sessions may be scheduled on-site by calling Dana Bessinger at 405-522-2105, Judy Ferrell at 405-522-5513 or Cheri Long at 405-522-6768. Calendars with daily reminders about agriculture and fun facts about crops and animals are also available at no charge. Teachers can receive the monthly e-newsletter by signing up at www.agclassroom.org/ok.

"I think we have an ag-friendly state," Bessinger said.

She encourages teachers to take advantage of the array of resources available to promote agricultural literacy and preserve the advantages Oklahomans enjoy from a strong agriculture industry.



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