BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) program remains a trusted resource for children to learn about agriculture. Recently, the program received a needed boost in the form of IAA Foundation grants to local county coalitions.
Seventy-eight coalitions serving 87 Illinois counties were awarded $630,000 in grant dollars which can be used for materials, trainings, educational lessons and activities taking place during the 2021-2022 school year. “Providing these grants helps ensure students are reached with accurate agricultural messages which help them connect food, fuel and fiber systems back to farming,” said Kevin Daugherty, education director, IAITC.
During a typical school year, more than 650,000 students and close to 40,000 teachers engage in ag literacy lessons. Due to pandemic related disruptions and adjustments to virtual learning over the past school year, IAITC outreach numbers were markedly down, however, the continued story is one of resilience, adaptation, and readiness.
“The willingness of local Ag Literacy Coordinators to stay connected and find new and meaningful ways to maintain outreach with local students led to more than 15,000 lessons conducted during the height of a global pandemic,” Daugherty continued.
In addition to offering virtual or in person local programs, Ag Literacy Coordinators distributed “Ag Bags” to schools and students as part of virtual take home materials or school lunch pickups. Teacher trainings also continued during the summer months.
County coalition grants are made possible through funding from the IAA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau. The IAA Foundation raises funds for the IAITC program each year, and in addition to county grants, provides funding for Ag Mags, teacher grants, Summer Ag Academies and more.
“Consistent outreach requires steadfast supporters,” said Susan Moore, director, IAA Foundation. “We are so grateful to our annual donors who understand how important efforts to enhance agriculture literacy can be. Every year there are new fourth graders to connect with, and our donors understand and appreciate IAITC’s efforts to get the job done.”
Partner organizations of IAITC include Illinois Farm Bureau, Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education, University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy Association, Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
In addition, annual donors include agribusiness partners and individuals with an interest in supporting the future of agriculture. For information on how individuals can contribute, visit www.iaafoundation.org. For information on IAITC, visit www.agintheclassroom.org.
— Illinois Farm Bureau