Program educates students, teachers on farming

Carol Ryan Dumas/Capital Press Attorney Paul Arrington and farmer Judy Woody participate in an Ag in the Classroom activity that shows students just how little soil exists in the world to produce food. The two attended a presentation on the program by Rick Waitley, Idaho state director of Ag in the Classroom, at the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce on April 5.

Materials help students understand 'where their food comes from'

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

Ag in the Classroom is dedicated to teaching students where their food and fiber comes from and the importance of maintaining a healthy ag sector and protecting natural resources.

In Idaho, the recent redistricting means some state legislators will represent districts that are 100 percent urban, even though 38 of Idaho's 44 counties are rural, said Rick Waitley, Idaho Ag in the Classroom state director.

"Through Ag in the Classroom, we feel we're helping students understand and have an appreciation for where their food comes from," he said.

The program is not a curriculum but is aimed at supplying teachers with the education and materials they need to integrate agriculture into their classroom curriculum.

The state program began in 1985 and focused on fourth-graders. It has since grown to include preschool through high school levels in every school district in the state, he said.

The goal is to educate every student in public and private schools in the state. It starts by educating teachers and supplying them with materials, lesson plans and classroom activities.

"We try to provide the teachers lots of information," Waitley said.

The program appeals to teachers in fulfilling their ongoing education credit requirements by offering workshops and tours.

"They come to the workshops because they have to get credits, but we hope we excite teachers enough that they want to teach it," he said.

That seems to be working in the Twin Falls School District. The program "is outstanding. We have a number of teachers that utilize the materials," Superintendent Wiley Dobbs said.

He is impressed with the materials and the district makes sure the materials and workshop and tour notices get in the hands of teachers, he said.

The program is especially helpful to teachers who don't have a farm background, he said.

Ag in the Classroom posters can be seen in many of the district's classrooms, students often visit farms, and discussions of agriculture are common in classrooms, he said.

The program is touted at fairs, expos and other events across the state and takes a coordinated army of partners. Its members and financial supporters represent a long list of organizations and individuals.

Funding is obtained through individuals, grants, partnerships and "Idaho Agriculture" vanity license plates.

Three teacher workshops and one tour are planned for this summer. To register or for more information, call 208-888-0988.

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