Ag digging in at B.C. schools

After 10 years of struggling, Linde Cherry is thrilled that agriculture-in-the-classroom is finally taking off in her province.

“In B.C. we’re finally seeing the value of educating young kids on agriculture,” she said.

Cherry is chair of the British Columbia agriculture-in-the-classroom program. Last year a full-time program director, Lindsay Babineau, was hired to work with teachers and make sure agriculture’s message is delivered.

“I find it so exciting, it gives me goosebumps,” said Cherry.

The beef industry development fund has provided enough money to support the province’s first teacher’s institute this summer at the University of B.C.’s experimental farm on Vancouver Island.

In addition, the four western provinces are sharing educational resources and information. A CD Rom describing careers in agriculture is now available for older students.

Ag-in-the-classroom programs are working with individual farmers on how to do a farm tour and keep it interesting for children. Ag-in-the-classroom programs have sent 4-H members to visit a school in Abbotsford to show city children what happens on a farm. The satisfying result is that schools are asking the program to return, which tells them it was effective.

It’s those repeat customers who keep Alberta’s program going, said Joanne Lemke of the Alberta Cattle Commission.

“Feedback is critical. The program design is based on that evaluation,” said Lemke.

“Unless we do some market research it’s tough to assess what impact we are having.”

Working with a number of other commodity groups, the commission launched the first program in 1986.

Since then it has reached more than 290,000 Grade 4 students using volunteers from the agriculture industry. About 600 volunteers blitz Alberta schools every spring.

The commission’s program required approval from the departments of agriculture and education.

The commission also offers a beef-in-the-classroom program for home economics students in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge. Next year it will run in Grande Prairie and Red Deer. The class is led by a home economist who teaches cooking, food safety and nutrition.

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