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Back-to-School: 6 Great Ways to Make Learning Real with Agriculture!

Back-to-School: 6 Great Ways to Make Learning Real with Agriculture!
It’s that time of year again. Kids and teachers are heading back to school. Some may be dreading it, but the majority of them are excited to be back with their friends and may even like the normalcy of a routine. For me, the secret to great education (whether I’m a learner or a teacher) is making it real and relevant. And agriculture is the perfect way to make learning relevant.

Why is Agriculture Important?

I believe that everyone has the right to healthy, affordable food that is raised by passionate agriculturists who are supported by a purpose-driven agriculture industry. I believe that agriculture drives our society and that if you eat, you are involved in agriculture. Agriculture produces so many products that we use daily, from clothes to plastics and from paper to fuel. I believe that because agriculture affects everyone, everyone has the right and the responsibility to know about how food is produced.

Why Teach Agriculture?

Agriculture is the perfect vehicle to teach core concepts like science, social studies, language arts and math because it can make learning real for students. Agriculture surrounds us in Iowa (it’s our state’s #1 industry) and using agriculture examples in the classroom can pique student interest. Students can see easy application of the concepts they are learning in the classroom which will inspire their curiosity and propel them to learn more.

Agriculture can be incorporated at any level, from kindergarten to high school and beyond. Here are six great ways that agriculture can be incorporated into learning that you can do at home or in a classroom lesson. And it's fun too!

1. Science is a great way for students to explore the world around them. Energy is at the intersection of science and agriculture. How do we turn corn into ethanol fuel to power our cars? This Tassel to Tank lesson walks students through the process!

2. Have you ever played around with augmented reality? Make learning literally come to life with this great lesson. Tech savvy students will love creating and editing their own videos to explain where their food comes from. Then they can showcase their project to parents, grandparents and friends.

3. Do you know how strong a soybean is? Those little seeds are really powerful! Try planting one in plaster and watch it crack and break the plaster. Full details and lesson plan here . Pop quiz for engineering students: How many pounds of pressure does that little soybean create to break the plaster? I bet it is more than you think!

4. Weights, volumes, bushels, cups, and ounces. How we measure fruits, vegetables, grain and meat are important skills to learn. Test out your math abilities and teach students how measure our food in this great activity and lesson. Students can also get a sense of what risk factors are associated with raising livestock and the financial math involved by playing Risk Ranch.

5. Today’s beef cows are a little different from the wild aurochs that roamed Europe thousands of years ago. Students can learn all about the history and social studies that made today’s modern breeds like Angus and Herefords.

6. Reading is a great way for students to strengthen their grasp of vocabulary, comprehension, and at the same time introduce new ideas. Check out our student publication Iowa Ag Today for great nonfiction text. You can also have them try out some of our recommended language arts strategies on the centerfold pork article and see how they do!

Start including agriculture into your classroom or home activities and watch as students become truly engaged learners when they understand why something like agriculture is so relevant to them. Make this back-to-school season the best one ever!

By Will Fett. Will is the Executive Director of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.