By Samantha Johnson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A Farm Ed Toolkit, created by the Rural Development Network, is now available.
It is a how-to guide that allows teachers to incorporate more agricultural education into their classroom or the outdoor environments of their schools. The toolkit was funded by a grant through the agriculture literacy vein of the Canadian Agriculture Partnership .
“When I was first contacted by the original author and heard the work they were doing it tied in so wonderfully with one of the main goals that I had in the development of the Irvine School Agricultural Discover Centre,” said Nichole Neubauer.
Neubauer always wanted the ADC to serve as a template for other schools, such that leadership teams could look at it and see all the wheels in motion, what was happening and then select parts or pieces out of it they could apply within their own environment.
“From the position of being an ag educator, farmer or a passionate community champion that would like to see a farm ed program happen at their schools, that’s who this guide is designed for,” stated Neubauer, who was a major contributor to the finished product. Additionally, Irvine School served as a pilot for the project.
“We talked about everything from at the beginning stages of putting your ideas down on paper. Having a vision, mission and goals with overarching objectives to make it really clear what you were trying to do. That is one of the most important things with some projects that are maybe outside the beaten path, you have to have a firm idea in your own mind about what success looks like and have the end in mind before starting.”
The toolkit starts with how to put together a proposal, meeting with the local school authority and campaigning the idea to the local municipality. If the proposal involves livestock, bylaw changes or amendments might be needed to have them within town limits. Following that, the guide goes into infrastructure that is needed and layout ideas.
Any school system that wants to become involved in ag education will become a representative of agriculture and need to be a shining example of all the best and brightest pieces of the industry.
“Animal health and welfare, should they have livestock, is priority No. 1. We outlined that and provided links to different organizations with resources and experts to help design a site that is a representation of a working farm.”
At the end of the guide there are links to Canadian based and developed ag education activities, such as curriculum links to Ag for Life and Ag in the Classroom, where teachers can find activities to use.
The final version of the Farm Ed Toolkit became available in spring of this year.
“It was something I was really proud to be a part of,” said Neubauer.
To get the guide, go to ruraldevelopment.ca/initiatives/agri-food and scroll to the bottom of the page to download.