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Program equips state teachers with agricultural teaching techniques

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A program that promotes the teaching of agriculture to Oklahoma schoolchildren is updating its curriculum to meet new educational standards.

Ag in the Classroom (AITC) is a partnership of Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and seeks to integrate agricultural literacy in schools by offering necessary resources to teachers.

“We try to provide hands-on activities for the [students], whether it’s cooking in the classroom to help understand where the food comes from or gardening outside to understand that there’s a process that the food goes through before it gets to the grocery store,” said Audrey Harmon, AITC state coordinator.

The State Department of Education released new academic standards for English language arts and math this year and released new standards for science and social studies in 2014, according to the department’s website.

“We’re constantly adding new lessons to the website,” Harmon said, “and we’re going through and replacing the Common Core standards or the past standards so that when teachers pull up a lesson, it has the standards on the side.”

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One of the Oklahoma high school graduation requirements is a financial literacy course, and AITC provides financial literacy flash cards and Crop-opoly, a game featuring specialty Oklahoma crops.

AITC state coordinators travel across Oklahoma to provide free professional development workshops to educators.

Another team member, curriculum writer and website coordinator Pat Thompson, is based out of Oklahoma State University. Thompson researches the background information for lessons for students in pre-K to 12th grade and provides activity ideas for teachers to use in classrooms.

“It’s always fun to see the students and help the teachers in any way we can,” Harmon said. “They enjoy the food activities with recipes, which integrates math and science components, and teachers can integrate writing and social studies if they wish.”

A new flipchart featuring recipes, games, crafts and activities called Fruits, Nuts, Veggies, Oh My! will be released to educators this fall and was funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

“If they are participating in making the recipes, then they’re more likely to try new fruits and vegetables,” Harmon said.

More than 7,000 teachers belong to AITC’s mailing list, and schools in every Oklahoma county participate in AITC.

“Over 30 years ago, agriculture leaders realized there was a disconnect between producers and consumers,” Harmon said. “AITC was started to help bridge the gap between the two by providing resources to teach agricultural literacy to students. The vision was for students to have a better understanding of where their food, clothes and shelter come from.”

AITC meets at the State Fair Academy, where teachers bring classes to the Oklahoma State Fair to talk about agriculture and encourage them to visit the event’s agriculture venues.

Beginning Oct. 1, students can submit entries to the yearly AITC contest, with entry categories for pre-K to 12th-grade students, and student winner are recobnized at Ag Day at the State Capitol in March. Visit agclassroom.org/ok.

Print headline: Cultivating knowledge, Ag in the Classroom equips teachers with fun and engaging ways to learn more about agriculture. 

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