Schools are back in session and students are hitting the books! We all want to see our kids succeed, and a solid foundation in subjects like reading, math, science, and social studies leads to that success. Regardless of the subject, kids connect to learning so much better when it is relevant to them and their lives.
Everyone can relate to the food that we eat, the clothes (fibers) that we wear, and even the fuel that powers our vehicles. Food, fiber, and fuel…that’s agriculture! Agriculture can be integrated into any subject and becomes a great way to contextualize learning for kids.
This year, teachers will start implementing the new Iowa Core Science Standards. These new standards are a fair bit different from the old ones. For starters, they intertwine science AND engineering practices. This allows teachers to crosscut a variety of concepts and intermix those with the core science ideas that are traditionally taught. Students investigate problems. They design solutions. They generate claims and discover evidence. They establish core scientific ideas in ways that are markedly different from science classrooms of the past.
Through this new approach to science, students explain scientific phenomena – many of which occur in agriculture and the natural world. Nearly 90 of the new science standards can be directly linked to the National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes, which means that using agriculture can be a great way to teach science!
For example, think about the science that goes into a monoslope cattle barn. The barn is built parallel to the travel of the sun. This provides maximum shade in the summer, keeping the barn 10-15 degrees cooler than outside. It provides maximum sun in the winter, keeping the barn 10-15 degrees warmer than outside. Animals stay comfortable and aren’t subjected to extreme temperatures. Students can study this and discover things like the spinning of Earth (movement of the sun), temperatures (record keeping and data collection), and what animals need to survive (food, water, and shelter).
Or students can study the growth of plants. Iowa’s two major crops – corn and soybeans – provide a perfect illustration of plants and plant lifecycles. Corn is a monocot and beans are dicots. Students can investigate the parts of a seed, the lifecycles, and what plants need to grow. Simple activities like creating seed germination necklaces (pictured) bring these concepts to life.
Students can also discover the science behind things like how hog farmers manage manure. By applying manure to fields at specific times, farmers can help prevent runoff and protect water quality, contributing to the success of Iowa's overall conservation efforts.
The science lessons (and future employment opportunities right here in Iowa) that agriculture provides make it a natural fit for today’s classrooms. The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation has all of the tools and resources teachers may need to start integrating agriculture into K-12 classrooms. Or reach out to your local county Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom contact for more information.
By Will Fett. Will is the executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.