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April 07, 2010   Email to Friend 

Applications Sought For AITC Summer Institute
By Debra Davis

Autauga County farmer Bill Lipscomb talks to teachers who participated in the 2009 Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute as they visit the cattle ranch at Autauga Farming Company. From left are teachers Kim Slay of Chambers County, Lipscomb, LaQuisia Williams of Redland Road Elementary School and Sabrina Washington of Horseshoe Bend High School.
Applications are being accepted until April 15 for the annual Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute, a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture that arms teachers with materials and strategies to increase student knowledge of agriculture.

Set for June 2-4 at the Battle House Renaissance Hotel in Mobile, the workshop will include activities for kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers and field trips to several area farms. The activities incorporate language arts, science, social studies and math skills.

"AITC is a program that educates teachers and students about agriculture in our state, and it provides opportunities for children to learn about farming and how important it is to our daily lives," said AITC Chairman Kim Earwood. "The summer institute provides books and hands-on activities that teachers can carry back to their classrooms. The activities teach children about agriculture, while at the same time reinforcing classroom curriculum of history, math, science, reading and writing that complement the Alabama Department of Education's course of study."

Educating teachers about agriculture, Alabama's largest industry, is important for several reasons, Earwood said. "There was a time when most children in Alabama grew up on a farm. But today, fewer children are raised in a rural setting and many really don't understand how important farms are," she said. "Agriculture is part of our state and nation's history, and it's definitely part of our future as we look for ways to feed a hungry world and find renewable fuels."

Workshops include hands-on activities teachers can do with their students including the use of recycled materials for classroom projects and making farm animals from ordinary household items.

The most popular part of the summer institute, however, is the farm tours, Earwood said.

"Many of the teachers who participate in the program have never been on a farm and have never met a farmer," she said. "Our tours allow them to visit with a farmer one-on-one and ask questions. Our teachers develop a greater appreciation for the challenges farmers face." Teachers who have participated in past summer institutes are perhaps the best recruiters for the program. Many say it is the best continuing education program they've ever attended.

LaQuisia Williams of Redland Elementary School in Elmore County attended the institute last summer. She said she enjoyed the classroom activity ideas she learned, but added the farm tours were her favorite.

"I had never seen a cotton plant before and it was very interesting," she said. "AITC is a great program, and I would definitely recommend it to teachers who want to learn new things for their classrooms."

The institute will be limited to 95 educators, and applicants will be selected on the basis of an application form provided by the AITC Planning Committee. It is available online at www.AlabamaAITC.org.

Round-trip mileage to the workshop, lodging, meals and workshop materials will be furnished. Teachers also can receive continuing education credits. For more information, contact Kim Earwood, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Women's Division and AITC chairman, at (334) 612-5370 or email KEarwood@AlfaFarmers.org.

Applications should be sent to: Amy Belcher, Alabama Ag in the Classroom, P.O. Box 3336, Montgomery, AL 36109-0336 or faxed to (334) 240-7169.


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