Through its On the Farm STEM events, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has connected more than 215 educators with beef farmers and ranchers, researchers, nutritionists and veterinarians. Launched in 2017, these professional development events are designed for educators who work in STEM and have a limited background in agriculture.
While the number of participants is not insignificant, Daniel Meloy, executive director of the Foundation, said the emphasis is on quality, not quantity.
“In every aspect of the On the Farm STEM events we strive to bring science to life so that educators are energized and knowledgeable about what goes into beef production. They can then bring that real-world STEM connection into the classroom, making for more informative and memorable educational experiences for their students,” Meloy said.
By all accounts (interviews, pre- and post-event surveys), the tours hit the mark, empowering participants to bring their new-found, in-depth understanding of beef production to the classroom – and well beyond.
Through her experience at two On the Farm events, Chris Schau, a learning strategist at Bailey Middle School in east Las Vegas, said she saw a future in agriculture for her students, many who come from financially struggling families.
“What I want my students to see is they can have roots in the farming community. You’re going to be the owners of that farm. You’re going to help folks better themselves. You’re going to provide jobs,” she told her students.
Schau also picked up some practical, easy-to-implement classroom tactics.
“One of the ranch managers took a strip of metal and made it into a circle and we measured the density of the grass. I implemented that right away. In the health classroom we were talking about nutrient density and I took that back to the beef and where those nutrients come from. And it comes right from the nutrients the cattle eat,” she explained.
Schau’s experience at the On the Farm STEM events spurred her to go to Reno to meet with the Nevada agriculture commissioner. That connection resulted in a developer providing the school with an acre of land so the students and faculty could build a community garden.
“I think agriculture is a topic that folks at Bailey Middle School and young people, especially in our area, can key into because this area is in a food desert,” she said.
Schau continued, “When folks are well fed, when folks don’t have to worry where their next meal is coming from, a lot of other things jump into place.”
The Foundation is accepting applications for the 2020 STEM educator event through March 6. This year’s event will be held July7-10 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Selected participants will receive free registration, reimbursement of up to $650 for approved travel expenses, hotel accommodations for four nights and meals, in addition to educational supplies and resources. Continuing education units will be made available to attendees who complete the program.
Visit www.onthefarmstem.com to apply and for additional information to build awareness, understanding and a positive public perception of agriculture through education.
The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of the On the Farm training and supporting resources.