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Educators earn credit by learning about agriculture

Posted: August 30, 2011 4:52 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County educators Mary Hayes, Kiersten Ross, Elma Shannon and Marilyn Shuler were among the 50 educators from across the state who recently completed a rigorous week learning about the importance of family farmers and domestically produced food, fiber and fuel at the S.C. Farm Bureau (SCFB) 2011 Summer Ag in the Classroom Teacher Institute in Aiken.

Participants came away from the institute better equipped to teach their students about the sources of their food, fiber, forestry products and fuel. 

Institute participants earned a set of grade-specific lesson plans aligned to the State curriculum standards to use in the classroom this fall. They also left with numerous resources that can be used to teach students about agriculture and the benefits farmers add to the economy, the environment, and the community. Institute participants received three hours of graduate credit (good toward their teacher re-certification) from Clemson University, courtesy of Farm Bureau’s 501(c)(3) Ag in the Classroom program. Participants each paid a $150 institute registration fee. The registration fee is often reimbursed to educators by their local County Farm Bureau chapter, which means the institute is free to those educators. Along with their registration fee, funds raised through the SCFB’s Ag in the Classroom fund covered the cost of tuition and other institute costs.

 “If agriculture is to maintain its status as South Carolina’s largest business sector -- providing more than 200,000 jobs and more than a $34 billion impact on South Carolina’s economy -- we’ve got to help people understand the link between their food, fiber and shelter and the farm,” said SCFB President and Sumter County farmer David Winkles. “Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program is a tool to help us accomplish that goal through our state’s teachers, and in turn to our state’s children.”

In addition to learning about their learning and teaching styles, teachers also heard from agriculture and education experts from  Clemson University’s College Relations/Ag Careers Department, S.C. Department of Agriculture and USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service. Tours of local farming operations and agribusinesses took teachers to Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, the Wild Turkey Center and Winchester Museum in Edgefield, Legacy Stable in Aiken, Cowden Plantation in Jackson and Cary Frick’s Layer Operation in Monetta.

 “I never cease to be amazed at the positive impact agriculture makes in the lives of teachers from across the state during this one week. Teachers leave with a greater understanding of and appreciation for agriculture,” said Vonne Knight, who heads SCFB’s Ag in the Classroom program. “I have never been part of a more rewarding higher education experience.”

The annual institute, which moves among various geographic regions of the state each year, is open to pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade certified classroom teachers in S.C. public or private schools, continues to grow.

“We’ve seen a continuing increase in the number of applications over the past several years. Because the materials we provide teachers are aligned to the State curriculum standards, they are more likely to be used in classroom instruction,” said Reggie Hall, Farm Bureau’s director of promotion and education.

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