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Agriculture Education at the Centre of Busy Year for AITC-M

Submitted by Ag in the Classroom – Manitoba

A RESOURCE HUB highlighting foundational commodities in Manitoba. The second season of a popular virtual farm tour. A new resource, two years in the making, highlighting the ‘whole plate’ story of Canada’s Food Guide. Presentations about career opportunities within the agriculture industry.

These are just some of the exciting goings-on that Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba (AITC-M) has been busy with as a new school year gets underway in 2022-23.

In September, with the help of expertise and support from commodity and industry partners, including foundational sponsors like Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, AITC-M proudly launched the Foundations of Manitoba Agriculture virtual resource hub.

The hub is a series of interactive courses and information sheets that invite teachers and students to explore the different crops grown and animals raised in Manitoba, including pulses, soybeans, chickens and more.

It targets all students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, and includes curriculum connections for each age group in-depth learning sheets for older students and bite- sized sheets for younger students.

“We’re really excited about Foundations of Manitoba Agriculture, which is aimed at helping kids in our province become agriculturally literate adults,” says Katharine Cherewyk, AITC-M’s new executive director. “Not enough Manitobans know where their food comes from and this new virtual resource hub can connect those dots in the classroom in a fun, interactive way.”

The fall also brought another connection point from the farm to the classroom — season two of the Follow the Farmers virtual farm tour series.

In Follow the Farmers, students get to watch a pre-recorded tour of the farm, then ask the farmer questions during a virtual Q and A session.. AITC-M also provides activities for students to do before and after each tour to reinforce the learning.

In October, the first livestream brought Grade 3-6 students into the world of canola through Will Bergmann of Bergmann Bros. farm. Students got a chance to ride along with Will during harvest season, seeing on the livestream how a combine works, how many canola seeds are in a pod, and how it looks to unload seed into a grain truck.

“For students who can’t make it to the farm, Follow the Farm is an amazing opportunity to bring the farmers to them,” says Cherewyk. “We’re so thankful for the support of Penner Farm Services for being our video presenter and bringing the tour to life for urban and rural classrooms alike.”

The next Follow the Farmers was on December 12. It featured Jason Rempel’s farm, Rempel Co. Acres, where students learned all about wheat. The third livestream in the spring will feature beef production on Andrew Steppler’s farm.

“These virtual tours are a wonderful way for my urban students (and I!) to see the world beyond the classroom,” says Allison Sirdar, a Grades 3/4 teacher at Robertson School in Winnipeg. “My students had a ton of questions after, which will spark some great in-class learning going forward.”

While Follow the Farmers tells the first part of the farm-to-table story, Eat Well: Exploring Canada’s Food Guide — a new AITC-M resource for Grade 5-8 students — explores how pulses can be part of healthy eating.

The kit provides interactive lessons, display materials and playing cards that introduce students to nutrition labels, the new protein food group and how pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas fit in, and an ‘Eat Well plate’ with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

AITC-M is also helping older students think about potential careers in agriculture and the wide variety of jobs available in the industry. At the thinkAG Expo at Kildonan East Collegiate in November, Winnipeg high school students explored careers with presentations from industry experts as well as classroom kits that helped further connect them to careers in ag.

Along with these ventures, AITC-M is continuing to run its regular programs, including Little Green Thumbs, CALM, and an exciting in-person return to the Ag Days Adventure planned for January.

“None of this would be possible without the help of our amazing sponsors, donors and volunteers,” says Cherewyk. “With core funders including Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, we were able to send out a record number of resources this fall and help bring agriculture education to new classrooms across Manitoba.”

To donate to AITC-M and hear more from teachers about their programs, resources and activities, head to aitc.mb.ca