Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan has gone virtual.
While in past years, Agriculture in the Classroom would send speakers and presentations to different classrooms across the province, this year due to COVID-19 restrictions that has been impossible.
Because of this, teachers have had to get creative in educating their students about agriculture.
Sandra Bratton, Grade 2 teacher at MacLeod Elementary School in Moosomin says she enjoys teaching students about agriculture.
Bratton says the students read books about agriculture and did a variety of different crafts.
“We read a book called ‘What’s in my Lunch Box?’ that talks about the different foods we have in our lunch kits and where they come from. Things like who grew the food and how they were produced, so we talked about what was in our lunch kits and we talked about what kind of a farm that food would have come from. We also took a virtual class field trip to a cattle farm. It was one of those tours that you could look all around in. We had a person take us on a virtual field trip through the computer as well.
“We also talked about what’s on our plate and making sure we have healthy food choices by following the Canadian Food Guide. We watched the video, then put stickers on our plates that showed fruits and vegetables taking up half, then meats and protein taking up a quarter and then the other quarter being grains.”
She explains that the topic of agriculture is something that is important to her.
“My husband is a farmer and I grew up on a farm as well, so I do think it’s important in Saskatchewan. In grade 2 we talk about communities and the different roles within the communities. One of these topics is about where food comes from and the farmers in a community.”’
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have had to limit what they teach in the classroom.
Bratton says they have been unable to bring food to the classroom, which has made things difficult.
“Unfortunately this year we can’t do much with food because of COVID, we can’t really handle food unless it’s made in a restaurant or pre-packaged because we can’t really touch each other. Unfortunately, we can’t even bring food in to share with the kids that would have been made to demonstrate local agriculture. So this year was a tough one for that.”
This also impacted the ability to bring in speakers and guests.
“Every year I usually have someone come into my classroom that’s a farmer or is in the agriculture business and they talk to my students about their jobs and have a PowerPoint presentation, but that wasn’t done this year.”
Bratton says her students enjoy the topic of agriculture as many of them either live on farms or have relatives who do.
“Quite a few of my students have relatives that farm or live on a farm so they’re very interested in sharing their stories and what kind of farm they come from. It also seems to get the other students interested as well.”
With the inability to bring in speakers or presenters for Agriculture Literacy Month, some teachers turned to a digital platform.
Kindergarten teacher at Rocanville School, Jamie Smigelski, says they brought in speakers through Zoom and did a virtual tour for the students.
“We had some speakers visit us virtually through Zoom and they talked about where our food in Saskatchewan comes from. I have 18 kindergartens in my class and we had our first Zoom meeting of the year and it went really well. Many of our students live on a farm or have family who does, and they know a lot about caring for plants or animals so they were really excited to check out a milk plant in a virtual tour and a cattle farm from Moosomin.
“The kids really learned a lot. They also drew pictures of their favourite foods that come from a farm,” said Smigelski.
She says they talked a lot about where the food comes from and if it can be traced back locally.
“The Zoom meeting was mostly talking about where our food comes from and talking about all the different things that we eat and how they tie into our local farms. We visited the dairy farm to talk about where our milk comes from and then the cattle farm to talk about burgers and where the bun and meat come from. Then we also talked a little bit about crops and vegetables.”
Smigelski says that the students are very interested in the topic of agriculture as many of them live on farms and raise their own animals.
“I think its really important for students to learn about ag literacy because it helps them realize what foods are best for their bodies and just how many local people around them are involved in getting the food from the farm to the table. A lot of times they just see what comes in a package at the grocery store. I think it’s just really important that they learn all the steps and it really helps them value food just a little bit more.
“Quite a few of them live on a farm and grow their own food. I have one student that has chickens and sheep and they grow a garden, they also have cattle. We have a few students who are out in the tractors and doing chores, so they’re already quite involved in their own farm. I think that they are definitely interested in a career in agriculture.”
She explains that in past years the students have grown their own plants, and are considering hatching chicks this year in spring.
“Usually in the spring we will grow our own pea seeds in the classroom and sometimes we also grow sprouts but I don’t know if we’ll do that this year.
“We do try to grow some of our own plants in the classroom so they can get an idea of how to start their own plants. I’m also debating hatching chicks this year, but we don’t know yet. We want to try it so they can see the whole life cycle of a chicken. We do a lot of mini-lessons because they’re in kindergarten, like talking about the different things they have in their lunches and if those things can be traced back to a farm.”