Applications are being accepted until April 15, 2011, for the annual Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute, a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that arms teachers with materials and strategies to increase student knowledge of agriculture.
Set for June 15-17 at the Marriott Shoals in Florence, the workshop will include activities for kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers and field trips to several area farms. The activities incorporate language arts, science, social studies and math skills.
"AITC is a program educating teachers and students about agriculture in our state, and provides opportunities for children to learn about farming and how important it is to our daily lives," AITC Chairman Kim Earwood said. "The summer institute provides books and hands-on activities teachers can carry back to their classrooms. The activities teach children about agriculture, while at the same time reinforcing classroom curriculum of history, math, science, reading and writing complementing the Alabama Department of Education’s course of study."
Educating teachers about agriculture, Alabama’s largest industry, is significant because it instills the importance of agriculture and how it impacts everyone’s lives on a daily basis, Earwood said.
"There was a time when most children in Alabama grew up on a farm. But today, fewer children are raised in a rural setting and many really don’t understand how important farms are," she said. "Agriculture is part of our state and nation’s history, and it’s definitely part of our future as we look for ways to feed a hungry world and find renewable fuels."
The most popular part of the summer institute, however, is the farm tours, Earwood said.
"Our tours allow the teachers to actually meet a farmer and ask questions about what happens at their farm," Earwood explained. "It helps make farming seem real, especially to those teachers who have never been on a farm. When you hear a teacher who has been teaching for 28 years tell you it is the best workshop she has ever attended, it shows the program’s efforts are all worthwhile and headed in the right direction."
Sponsors of the program include the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alfa Insurance, Alabama Cattle-men’s Association, Alabama Poultry Contract Growers Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Proceeds from the sale of ag tags also benefit the program.
The institute will be limited to 95 educators, and applicants will be selected on the basis of an application form provided by the AITC Planning Committee. It is available online at www.AlabamaAITC.org.
Applications should be sent to: Amy Belcher; Alabama Ag in the Classroom; P.O. Box 3336; Montgomery, AL 36109-0336 or faxed to (334) 240-7169.
Debra Davis works with Alfa.