- Fruits: apples, pears, melons
- Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
- Animals: bees
- Animal Products: dairy
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: youth education
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
- Farm Business Management: farm-to-institution
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Production Systems: permaculture, transitioning to organic, organic agriculture
- Soil Management: composting, earthworms, organic matter, soil analysis
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures
REAP’s Farmer in the Classroom program will bring local farmers using sustainable agricultural practices into Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) elementary school classrooms to teach students about farming as a career and what it means to farm sustainably. Farmer in the Classroom lessons will serve as the final class in a series of six lessons taught by REAP’s four part-time Farm to School AmeriCorps members. Farmers will facilitate a 40 minute lesson in each classroom that will include pictures of their farm, engaging activities teaching students about sustainable agricultural practices, and each lesson will include a locally-grown produce snack.
Detailed Project Plan and Timeline
REAP’s Farmer in the Classroom program will begin in August 2016 to coincide with the onboarding of four new Farm to School AmeriCorps members. REAP AmeriCorps teach a series of six 40 minute lessons covering Farm to School related topics, including agriculture, sustainability, and nutrition in MMSD elementary schools. The Farmer in the Classroom program will occur during the culminating sixth lesson and introduce farming as a career and sustainable agricultural practices.
AmeriCorps will reach out to teachers to schedule Farmer in the Classroom after the third week of classes. REAP has a well-established partnership with MMSD and AmeriCorps teach in classrooms yearly. Scheduling is an ongoing process throughout the school year and AmeriCorps seek to reach as many classrooms as possible. In the school year 2014-2015, AmeriCorps taught in 45 classrooms at 13 schools and reached 800 students.
In September 2016, AmeriCorps members will begin outreach to local farmers to determine their interest in and availability for Farmer in the Classroom. REAP works closely with over 20 local farms to supply fresh produce for REAP’s weekly snack program and many of these farmers have participated in past educational events, thus it is reasonable that at least five local farmers will participate in the program. As lessons are scheduled with individual classrooms, AmeriCorps will schedule a local farmer to facilitate the Farmer in the Classroom lesson.
AmeriCorps will work directly with each individual farmer to determine appropriate content and activities for the lesson. Each lesson will begin with an introduction of their farm, why they decided to become a farmer, and farming as a career. Farmers will discuss sustainable agriculture and its importance. Specific sustainable agricultural practices used on their farm, such as crop diversity, beneficial insects, and organic agriculture will be covered. Many of these topics are introduced in REAP’s Farm to School educational programming and the final lesson will serve as an opportunity for students to review and display their knowledge. By interacting and learning directly from a farmer, students will understand that sustainable farming is economically viable and profitable over the long-term, ecologically sound because it preserves the environment for future people’s food and environmental needs, and socially responsible because it benefits the health and well-being of the entire community.
AmeriCorps and the Program Coordinator will develop engaging content and materials for each lesson, including slideshows, posters, worksheets, and educational games. Lesson content will be grade appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade. At the end of the lesson students will be asked to fill out a questionnaire with the prompts “What does sustainable agriculture mean to me?” and “The most important thing I learned from Farmer [Name] is...”. Responses will be used to gauge students’ knowledge after the lesson and can be used to guide future curriculum development.
In May 2017, REAP will celebrate Farmer in the Classroom and engage parents and the entire community around farming and sustainable agriculture. Each year REAP facilitates a day-long community event at a MMSD elementary school called Family Food Fest. Family Food Fest will provide REAP with the opportunity to introduce parents and the entire community to local farmers and highlight sustainable agriculture practices. Farmers will be invited to participate in the event by facilitating veggie tastings and discussing their farms. AmeriCorps will facilitate educational activities about sustainable agricultural practices. To display what students have learned, AmeriCorps will compile responses from the post-lesson questionnaires and combine them with pictures from the program to highlight the success of Farmer in the Classroom at Family Food Fest.
August 2016: AmeriCorps members begin service with REAP.
September 2016: AmeriCorps begin scheduling Farmer in the Classroom. AmeriCorps also begin outreach to local farmers to determine interest in the program.
October 2016: AmeriCorps begin communicating with farmers to determine which sustainable agriculture practices they use and developing educational activities to highlight these practices.
October 2016 – April 2017: AmeriCorps and Program Coordinator develop Farmer in the Classroom lesson plans and materials.
November 2016: AmeriCorps teach the first Farmer in the Classroom lesson. Feedback from the farmer, teacher, and Program Coordinator will be used to enhance the lesson.
November 2016 – May 2017: AmeriCorps facilitate educational programming and Farmer in the Classroom. AmeriCorps continue outreach to in order to reach as many classrooms as possible.
February 2017 – May 2017: AmeriCorps and Program Coordinator begin planning and developing materials for Family Food Fest.
March 2017: AmeriCorps reach out to farmers to participate in Family Food Fest.
May 2017: Family Food Fest.
In order to create robust educational programming for use in Farmer in the Classroom, REAP will work closely with local farmers to determine which sustainable agriculture practices to highlight. REAP AmeriCorps members and the Program Coordinator will employ numerous resources to create the activities and materials for use in the program. For example, the Agriculture in the Classroom National Resource Directory provides various lesson plans and activities about sustainable agriculture for all grade levels. Further, REAP will purchase the book Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils, a Hands-on Resource for Teachers to use as a guide for developing the Farmer in the Classroom lesson plans. The University of Illinois Extension provides six teacher guides, including one specifically about how to discuss sustainable agriculture, which can be incorporated into the Farmer in the Classroom program. For younger students, books such as Farming by Gail Gibbons will be read to students and provide an engaging introduction to life on a farm. REAP has established lesson plans that cover topics related to sustainable agriculture and will also utilize these resources in the creation of the Farmer in the Classroom curriculum.
The Farmer in the Classroom program will be promoted widely through REAP Food Group’s communication channels, including articles in our print newsletter, mentions in our e-newsletter with 3,000 recipients, REAP Food Group Facebook and Twitter accounts (nearly 4,000 followers combined), and on our website throughout the year. AmeriCorps members will promote Farmer in the Classroom by attending Parent-Teacher Organization meetings early in the school year and by attending other school food and health related events, such as school wellness fairs, with information regarding the program. Once Farmer in the Classroom programming begins, REAP will spotlight each participating farmer on REAP’s dedicated Farm to School Facebook page. Posts will include a brief description of the program, a short biography on the farmer, and pictures from the farm and classroom. We will also reach parents with an article on the program in the MMSD Family Newsletter.
Family Food Fest will serve as the culminating celebration of the Farmer in the Classroom program. While students will only meet one farmer in the classroom, Family Food Fest will showcase numerous local farmers and highlight what sustainable agriculture means to each farmer, demonstrating the broad range of ways sustainable agriculture can be practiced. Participating farmers will be invited to lead demonstrations, conduct taste-tests, and discuss farming and sustainable agriculture. REAP will create a visual representation of the program, including what we did, what the students learned, and why it was important using quotes from the student questionnaires and pictures from the program. REAP will bring some activities and materials from the Farmer in the Classroom program to the event to engage students who were not reached by the program.
Student and Community Impact
The anticipated impact of Farmer in the Classroom is an increase Madison students and community members’ knowledge of local farmers, farming as a career, and sustainable agricultural practices utilized by these farmers. The Farmer in the Classroom program will provide early exposure to sustainable agriculture concepts and, in an urban setting such as Madison, may be a child’s only exposure to farmers and agriculture as a career. In order to monitor and evaluate the Farmer in the Classroom program, a tracking log will be employed to record the number of classrooms and students who participate in the program, the number of local farmers who visit schools, and the number of community members reached through social media and attendance at Family Food Fest. Given that each student will only participate in one 40-minute lesson and many of the topics may also be covered in REAP’s Farm to School curriculum, a pre-post test would not be an adequate representation of a student’s gain in knowledge from the Farmer in the Classroom program. Instead, impact evaluation of Farmer in the Classroom will focus on the student’s perceptions of sustainable agriculture and farming. A questionnaire administered at the end of the Farmer in the Classroom lesson will ask students “What does sustainable agriculture mean to me?” and “The most important thing I learned from Farmer [Name] is...”. This questionnaire will allow students of various grade levels to respond in a grade appropriate manner about key concepts that the students learned from the program. AmeriCorps members and the Program Coordinator will assist younger students with filling out the questionnaire. Farmers will participate in a post-lesson survey in order for REAP to understand their perceptions of the program, interest in future participation, and suggestions for improvement.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Introduce sustainable agriculture and farming as a career option to Madison Metropolitan School District elementary school students by bringing local farmers using sustainable agricultural practices into classrooms to lead creative lessons.
- Engage students with concepts including crop diversity, beneficial insects, and organic agriculture through classroom visits from farmers.
- Challenge students to consider social responsibility with sustainable farming and its effects on the health and well-being of communities.
- Extend impact of program by promotion through REAP Food Group's communication channels, including articles in a print newsletter and e-newsletter, posts on social media accounts, updates on website, and more.