9:48 a.m. PST March 9, 2016
Representatives from Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom, a nonprofit that provides free curriculum, resources and training to K-12 teachers, visited Myers Elementary School in Salem on Tuesday to teach students about agriculture.
The foundation was kicking off its annual statewide literacy project.
Each year a new agriculturally themed book is chosen and a lesson is developed that reinforces the message of the book, Michel Wiman of Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom said.
Hundreds of volunteers then bring “in-class field trips” to classrooms throughout Oregon, such as the visit to Myers.
This year, the organization is featuring the book, “Before We Eat: From Farm To Table.”
“Before We Eat” is a story about the several steps our food goes through before it ends up on our plate.
Wiman said the story “teaches students about the wide range of careers in agriculture, that food doesn’t magically appear in the supermarket, and will inspire conversations with the students about the potential of working in agriculture.”
Last year more than 725 volunteers read to 20,077 students in 889 classes across the state for the literacy project.
The goal of the project is to improve both the reading and agricultural literacy of Oregon students in grades K-5, Wiman said.
“As the average age of farmers nationwide approaches 60, and with most students three or four generations removed from a family farm and an understanding of agricultural career options, we feel this is an especially timely lesson,” she said.
About 100 fifth-grade students crowded around a small stage at the school Tuesday afternoon to hear volunteer Carolyn Jackson read the story.
The students sat on their heels, leaning forward to hear the story and see the pictures. Their hands shot up when a question was asked.
After the story, a select group of students dressed up as various agricultural professions for a learning activity with the students.
The partnerships established with Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom and local schools like Myers are formed by teachers reaching out and utilizing the curriculum and resources the non-profit provides. Salem-Keizer is the largest district partner in the state due to the number of teachers utilizing the materials.
Scott Kiser won the organization’s teacher of the year award last October. The fifth-grade teacher has been at Myers for 19 years.
His class was one of those able to participate at the kick-off event.
“I hope students take away a better knowledge of the (agricultural) opportunities in Oregon,” Kiser said.
He said from lessons like this, he hopes students will feel comfortable doing things like talking to farmers, and that they realize the importance of reading and agriculture.
For more information about the literacy project, go to oregonaitc.org/trainingevents/literacy-project/.