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June 21, 2001   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
June 21, 2001

Elmore County farmer Jerry Quay conducts a sheep shearing demonstration for participants in the Alabama Ag in the Classroom Teacher Institute.
"Montgomery, Ala." Ninety teachers from throughout Alabama learned creative ways to incorporate farming into their daily lesson plans during a Teacher Institute this week conducted by Alabama's Ag in the Classroom (AITC).

AITC Chairman Jane Alice Lee of Montgomery said teachers participating in the three-day course learned how a school garden can be used to teach students about science and math and how children can learn more about their environment through experiments involving soil, water and air.

"We want to make the teachers more aware of the food and fiber system so they can go back into the classroom and share that with their students," said Lee. "We provide the teachers lesson plans and other tools they will need when they get back to the classroom, and we design the Ag in the Classroom curriculum so it brings in all educational disciplines."

The Teacher Institute, which was held June 20-22 in Montgomery, is the second statewide in-service program conducted by Alabama AITC. The program was made possible by a gift of $275,000 from the Alabama Farmers Federation, which will fund annual institutes through 2004.

This year's Teacher Institute included a presentation by Dr. Jim Flint of Vermont entitled "Every School Needs a Garden." Bernadette Mechler, a first-grade teacher at Carver Elementary in Montgomery, said the presentation has inspired her to suggest planting a garden at her school.

"I've always tried to teach my students to appreciate the environment and appreciate what the land has to offer them," she said. "We have a beautification committee at our school, and I'm hoping to pass this idea along to the committee so maybe we can start a small vegetable garden, and maybe the students can sell some of the vegetables."

Debbie Larrimore, a first-grade teacher at Escambia Academy in Brewton, Ala., said she attended the Teacher Institute last year and enjoyed it so much she decided to apply again.

"Last year was such an enjoyable experience. I learned a wealth of information to share with my classroom," she said. "We always do a large study of seeds in the spring, and I came hoping to learn ways to expand what we're already doing." Larrimore said the Institute also provides an excellent forum for teachers to exchange ideas and share successful teaching methods. During this year's Teacher Institute, educators participated in a wool-spinning workshop, and they watched a sheep shearing demonstration by Elmore County farmer Jerry Quay.

Teachers were selected for the Teacher Institute based on an application process, and each received a full scholarship to attend. Their lodging, meals and materials were provided by the Federation and additional sponsors including the Alabama Cattlemen's Association, the Alabama Pork Producers and the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.

Ag in the Classroom is designed to offer teachers innovative ways to teach agriculture to their students. It was created in 1981 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented in Alabama in 1983. The program receives no federal money and relies on donations to survive. For more information about Alabama AITC, contact Alabama Farmers Federation Women's Director Ashley Davis at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 3280.

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