This week begins a new chapter for our family. The school year has officially kicked off, but instead of getting on the bus, our preschooler and kindergartner will be learning from home — a decision we thought long and hard about. But for a multitude of reasons, we felt it was the best route for our young children during this uncertain season.
Without question, parents, teachers, administrators and students will face some incredible challenges in the months ahead. I pray for everyone involved to stay safe, to practice grace, to have courage and to choose kindness above all else as the school year begins.
Whether students are going back to school in the classroom, learning virtually through online programs or choosing to homeschool independently, one thing I think all parents and educators can agree on right now is that we don’t want our children to fall behind on their education.
Now more than ever, in light of the restrictions due to COVID-19, it’s going to be difficult or nearly impossible for agriculture in the classroom programs to function. Volunteers won’t be able to come in and read a story. Farm tours are less likely to happen. Agricultural literacy might be cast aside in favor of what is deemed “critical” in this current situation we all find ourselves in.
Yet, it’s important to remind educators that through agricultural lessons, students can learn the fundamentals of math, science, reading and more.
As I’ve said many, many times throughout this whole ordeal, now is the time we must do four things — Innovate. Pivot. Connect. Serve.
Looking at promoting agricultural literacy with young people in this upcoming school year, I think there are many ways we can still accomplish that task.
For example, since I won’t be doing author/rancher visits this year, I’m encouraging teachers and home educators to sign up for a virtual Zoom visit with me reading my children’s books. I also direct them to my YouTube channel where they can listen to a read-a-long of my stories. I’m also excited to add to my collection of published books later this year a fourth story about soil health, featuring the importance of keeping livestock on the land to benefit the environment.
Looking outside my own sphere of influence, I asked my Facebook followers to help me compiled a list of outstanding agricultural resources that can be used as curriculum for young people.
In no particular order, here is the list my friends on social media came up with. Note, I haven’t vetted all these personally, so parents and educators need to carefully review materials for students before presenting.
However, this is a great list to work from, and should give us all inspiration and tools for promoting agricultural literacy in young people.
Reference this list, and please help me keep this updated by sharing your favorite materials, books, lessons and online resources in the comments.
I had no idea that 4-H had curriculum kits for educators and parents! This is so neat! Topics include STEM, art, agriculture, business, citizenship, creative arts, diversity/inclusion, environment, outdoor science, healthy living, foods, practical skills, Spanish and more.
The National Ag In The Classroom website provides K-12 educators with engaging resources to increase agricultural literacy among their students. Be sure to check with your home state to reference the programs and materials relevant to your area, as well.
The American Farm Bureau Foundation creates games, lesson plans, activities, videos and an approved list of agriculturally-accurate books to help students learn more about where their food comes from. Particularly relevant in this election year are the historically accurate agricultural books, which you can find here.
Kids Gardening’s mission is to create opportunities for kids to play, learn and grow through gardening by engaging their natural curiosity and wonder. With a focus on environmental stewardship, community spirit, social skills, leadership skills and nutritional attitudes, kids learn by working with their hands.
This lesson series is designed to help leaders engage 4-H youth at club meetings or events in learning more about the science and life skills involved in animal and veterinary science projects.
This group offers a collection of videos, lessons and activities to take students on a journey to several farms and venues to learn more about farming and food from the source.
The Playful Pioneers is a literature and project-based curriculum for early elementary students. The curriculum will lead students through daily readings in The Little House on the Prairie series along with picture books designed to introduce your child to pioneer life in North America. You will also read about famous people and events of the time period including Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Louis Braille, Thomas Edison, Tecumseh, and more.
Through this program, students will gain a thorough understanding of agriculture, minerals, energy and outdoor recreation and tourism. They will learn how these drivers relate to our natural resources, and how they can best steward those resources for years to come.
9. Playful Farm
On Instagram, a farm mom creates fun activities for the little learners featuring cattle, tractors and simple supplies found throughout your home. Super creative and visually pleasing, this Instagram feed is sure to spark some inspiration with your young children.
The Nelson Academy of Agricultural Sciences Online team is dedicated to offering affordable, high quality agriculture courses to middle school and high school students. They also provide Adult Education courses and certifications to those looking to further their farm and ranch knowledge.
11. Kansas Corn STEM
Kansas Corn has created a curriculum with lessons on science and technology based around corn production.
12. California Cattlewomen
The "Beef For Kids" materials are fantastic for can-do cowkids who want to learn more about beef, ranching and cattle!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.