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Local first grade teacher incorporates agriculture into her curriculum

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Posted at 7:15 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 05:41:20-04

OLATHE, Ks — A first grade teacher at Heatherstone Elementary School in Olathe is teaching her students agriculture literacy through their core subjects. What they are eating, where it comes from, how it grows and what role they play in the future of food.

“While my students might not grow up to be a farmer, they are very much going to support that farmer," said Nancy Smith. "Whether they are going to be a truck driver, or they are going to be a grocery store manager, or they are going to be a botanist, or they are going to be a soil scientist,” said Smith.

Much of her curriculum is hands-on learning. Students plant, grow, prepare and cook their own food for garden parties. Her lessons also focus on real-life experiences, like writing a grant letter for a pretend loan, then building farm equipment to sell and pay back debt.

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It also encourages students to become involved in the community. In fact, she took a group of her students to the Kansas State School Board last year so that they can help convince legislators to get agriculture written into the state standard.

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“We wanted to have other elementary schools learn about agriculture and how important farmers are to our city and stuff,” said Emma Johnson, a second grader who was a part of that field trip.

Johnson says this type of learning has piqued her interest in pursuing a career in agriculture.

“I’ve always liked animals and I’ve always loved, like, planting and stuff and gardening and stuff. So I don’t know, maybe that’s what I’ll do,” said Johnson.

It is music to the ears of Briana Jacobus, who works for the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. The foundation is a a statewide, non-profit that works to incorporate agriculture into K-12 classes.

“We’re always concerned that there’s not gonna be enough people to grow our food, fiber and fuel in the future,” said Jacobus. “Especially as students are now, one, two and three generations removed from the farm.”

Jacobus says right now, the word “agriculture” is nowhere to be seen in K-5 standards in Kansas.

“It’s using agriculture as the vehicle to teach those core subjects like science and math. If we can use ag as a vehicle to teach those, versus adding them as a whole other thing that a teacher has to worry about teaching.”

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Smith says the goal is not to raise future farmers. The goal is to raise informed consumers and good stewards of our land.

“My kids are so interested in their world and they are so excited about everything around them," Smith said. "Everything is fun, everything is new and everything is exciting and I want to build on that."