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February 17, 2011   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
February 17, 2011

Autauga County farmer Andy Wendland talks to teachers about his corn crop during a field trip taken as part of a previous Agriculture In The Classroom Summer Institute. The deadline for entries for this year's summer institute is April 15.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - 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 15-17 at the Marriott Shoals in Florence, 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 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 significant because it instills the importance of agriculture and how it impacts everyone's lives on a daily basis, 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."

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

"Our tours allow the teachers to actually meet a farmer and ask questions about what happens at their farm," Earwood said. "It helps make farming seem real, especially to those teachers who have never been on a farm. When you hear a teacher who has been teaching for 28 years tell you it is the best workshop she has ever attended, it shows that the program's efforts are all worthwhile and headed in the right direction."

Sponsors of the program include the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alfa Insurance, Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Alabama Poultry Contract Growers Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Proceeds from the sale of ag tags also benefit the program.

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 AlabamaAITC.org.

Lodging, most 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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