Ag Tag projects help children learn importance of Florida agriculture

Cows. Bees. Brunch.  What do they have in common? Florida Agriculture in the Classroom.

“The Beef Cow is a Winner,” “Catch the Buzz on Bees in Wakulla County,” and “Growing Brunch” are just three of the 18 projects across the state that Florida Ag in the Classroom will fund in the next year to teach students the importance and the scope of Florida’s agriculture industry. The projects will be carried out by volunteers from extension offices, 4-H, Master Gardeners and other non-profit associations.

About $20,000 was awarded in June to fund the organization’s 2012 Volunteer Grants program.

FAITC, a Gainesville-based non-profit organization, uses proceeds from the sale of the agriculture specialty license plate — the Ag Tag — to fund volunteer grants, grants for teachers to create agriculture-oriented projects for their classrooms, awards for outstanding teachers and volunteers, materials and curricula, mini grants for school gardens, and Ag Literacy Day.

A young girl plants strawberries in an Ag in the Classroom sponsored school garden.

“Providing students with hands-on agriculture-related activities and lessons not only teaches them valuable life skills, it also helps them gain an appreciation for all that agriculture does for us,” said Jennifer Sills, chairwoman of Florida Ag in the Classroom.

Creative projects funded by FAITC’s volunteer grants include:

“Agriculture: Fun and Learning go Together,”  from the Bradford County Extension and other volunteer groups in the county, will expand school gardens from one elementary school to all four elementary schools in the county.

“Vertical Gardening” from the Old Davie School Foundation will educate students on how to grow vegetables and the importance of eating them by using a vertical growing system.

“Catch the Buzz on Bees in Wakulla County” will bring members of Wakulla County 4-H into classrooms to educate students as to the importance of bees to Florida agriculture.

“Growing Brunch,” an Escambia County based project will spread the word about area commodities by helping students create a school garden based on items found on a brunch menu.

And “The Beef Cow is a Winner,” from the Polk County Cattlewomen, is a plywood game board designed to educate students about beef and its by-products.  “We also will be handing out cow masks for younger children, which they can take home. On the back is information about the various products that beef cows provide,” said Marjorie Woods, who received the grant. “We want the students to know that the cows provide more than just meat. Everything is used,” she said. The game, as well as handouts, bookmarks and more will be available at a variety of events in the county.

Read the entire list of imaginative and practical projects here.

Next up will be this year’s teacher grants. The application and guidelines are posted on Ag in the Classroom’s website (flagintheclassroom.com/grants.htm) and are due by Oct. 1. FAITC has $40,000 for the 2013-2014 Teacher Grant program.

“Offering grants to educators around the state helps us leverage ‘Ag Tag’ dollars to reach more Florida teachers and students,” said Lisa Gaskalla, executive director of Florida Agriculture in the Classroom.

The 2012 Teacher Grants were announced last year.  A total of $34,000 was earmarked for 34 projects that included school vegetable gardens, community gardens, an agriculture book club, and lessons about irrigation and water conservation and the life cycle of chickens. A complete list is here.

In addition to its grant programs, Florida Ag in the Classroom spreads the good word about agriculture through teacher resources including lessons, projects, and workshops for teachers and facilitators.

One such resource, “Gardening for Grades,” is a comprehensive guide for Florida teachers to help plan, fund, create and learn with a school garden. “Keeping Florida Green” offers hands-on activities that work with Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

Volunteers read the book "Healthy Florida Farms" to students on Ag Literacy Day 2012.

“Project Food, Lands and People,” also correlated to the Next Generation standards, is filled with hands-on activities and agricultural/environmental, interdisciplinary lessons. Materials are free to teachers and volunteers who complete training workshops.

Funds from sales of the Ag Tag also go to the annual Ag Literacy Day, which brings volunteer readers into classrooms to share a specially created book about Florida agriculture.

By making a tax-deductible, $20 purchase of an Ag Tag, you will help educate Florida’s future consumers, voters and leaders about the importance of the Florida agriculture industry.

In addition to your $20 contribution to Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, you will pay a $5 administrative fee that goes to the state.

Purchase an Ag Tag online or stop by your local tag office.

Comments are closed.