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Distance Learning – Can the Agriculture Industry Help?

Written by: Sarah Novak   |   October 1, 2020

Online learning

Sarah Novak's son in school at home.

As I sit down to write this blog, my home office is shared with my second grader, while my sixth and ninth graders work from their bedrooms. The 2020-21 school year is not exactly how I planned it would be, but we are all adjusting. It’s been a while since I have shared an office with anyone and I’ve learned that noise cancelling headphones for both of us is very helpful!

As teachers are pivoting to teach online (and parents who are supplementing during asynchronous time so they can do their jobs), I thought about all the agricultural groups that have pulled together great educational resources that can be used for school-aged children. Here’s a few resources I’ve found that might be helpful.

General Resources:

  • The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has collected several resources for teachers and families for children of all ages.
  • The National Ag in the Classroom program offers one of the largest sets of resources, from virtual farm tours to an Ag Smarts online quiz game to state ag facts and much, much more.
  • The American Egg Board has the best website for items – divided by preschool, elementary, middle and high school. They have science, economics, nutrition and even math projects!
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has a number of items for all ages as well – remember Smokey the Bear? He’s there too.
  • First the Seed Foundation has resources for both students and teachers. The materials span a range of students – from elementary school to high school. 
  • The National Association of Conservation Districts has a number of things for all ages of kids as well.

Preschool Students:

  • If you haven’t made play dough from flour, here’s the recipe from Kansas Wheat. I’ve used this to keep my kids busy for hours! Fun fact, did you know that play dough wasn’t originally created to be a toy? Nope, it was meant to be a wallpaper cleaner.
  • USA Rice has a set of four coloring activities for little ones here.

Elementary School Students:

  • Students can learn about math, science and more while playing more than 20 educational games at MyAmericanFarm.org. This online game site offers a fun way for elementary students to learn about agriculture and has great resources for teachers, too! Click on the classroom and family fun links on the homepage for lesson plans, activity sheets and videos that complement the games. Sign up for the e-newsletter at the bottom of the page to stay updated with My American Farm resources.
  • Nutrientsforlife.org is a great website for soil or nutrient-related resources. Nutrients for life has three levels of standards-aligned curricula, all available for free on the website. The site also has interactive games for elementary and middle school students.
  • Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has a number of “Life on the Farm” articles and videos covering topics such as how to milk a cow to kids sharing what it is like to grow up on a farm. For 3rd to 5th grade students, DMI partners with Discovery Education to offer a full curriculum, including virtual field trips and an entire section on converting poop to power (I know my boys will like this!).
  • USA Rice has a series of lesson plan ideas for older elementary school students here, which talks about the history of rice to the rice sustainability story. And here’s a set of ideas for the younger elementary school students (including my favorite Rice Krispies Treats recipe).
  • For third to fifth graders, the South Dakota Wheat Commission has a “Story of Wheat” resource that not only talks about wheat production and how it fits in a healthy diet, but also all the other uses for wheat beyond the table. Texas Wheat has a number of other fun items, including Mad Libs and home baking ideas for distance learners.
  • Here’s a resource from the USDA on food safety, it’s a coloring book – perfect for younger kids.
  • If you have an entomologist in training – or just a kid who loves looking and learning about insects – the USDA has a ton of activities (even a comic strip) on hungry pests.
  • The USDA also has a number of items for preschoolers and kids ages six to 11 on My Food Plate. (If you are like me, you are cooking at lot more at home and with having three kids, it’s much easier when they are not picky eaters!)

Middle/High School Students:

  • Americasheartland.org includes all of the popular PBS & RFD-TV series episodes that celebrate our nation’s agriculture with stories from across the U.S. and around the world. Each half-hour episode is divided into short stories to make them easier for classroom (or home) use. Search by topic to find just what you are looking for or extend learning by using the study guides and lesson plans.
  • Is your child doing a report on sustainability? Here’s some little known facts about the rendering industry – great reference materials for their next research paper.
  • Last year, my middle-schooler had to create a brochure on genetically modified organisms (are they good or bad?) and used the GMO Answers website for a number of her references. The site provides a wealth of information and debunks a number of the myths you may come across in social media.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has an entire section on their website for students and teachers on “Science and the Food Supply.” It covers food safety, nutrition and biotechnology as well.

Wishing all my feed industry parent friends a fun, healthy and educational 2020-21 school year.

 

 

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