MME. CLAIRE CAMPBELL, an elementary French teacher and fifth-generation farmer, says the best part of her job is bringing agriculture to the classroom.
“I love teaching my students about where their food comes from,” says Campbell, who raises turkeys, produces eggs, and grows 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat on her family farm, Ross Enterprises Ltd., near Moorefield, Ontario.
So, when she heard about the launch of Grain Farmers of Ontario’s new Grains on the Go trailer, she jumped at the chance to have her students at John Mahood Public School in Elmira, Ontario, participate in a pilot education program designed to teach students about grains and grain farming in Ontario.
GOOD IN EVERY CLASSROOM
As part of Grain Farmers of Ontario’s consumer outreach program, Good in Every Grain, the Good in Every Classroom program connects educators and students with free curriculum-linked resources about food, agriculture, and nutrition. Lesson plans, worksheets, video libraries, and the popular ‘What’s Growing On?’ seed kits are made available to thousands of students each year.
Recognizing that students learn best when they can see, touch, and learn about agriculture in person, Grain Farmers of Ontario communications specialist, Brianne Curtis, wanted to find a way to bring the farm to students.
“It’s not always possible for students to take field trips to farms,” says Curtis, citing the cost of bussing, urban schools’ proximity to farms, and biosecurity concerns as barriers.
With plans already underway to replace the ‘Growing Connections’ consumer activation trailer that traveled to large events like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF), with a smaller, more compact, and more modern exhibit, Curtis says that integrating the new trailer with Good in Every Classroom — and taking the farm to students — was a natural evolution.
A HIT WITH STUDENTS
The Grains on the Go trailer was launched at the 2022 March Classic, and immediately became a big hit at summer events like Canada Day celebrations at Parliament Hill, the Honda Indy, and the CNE.
The fully-accessible trailer, which is smaller, lighter, and easier to tow than its predecessor, the ‘Growing Connections’ trailer, highlights the five grains — barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat — and the Ontario farmers who grow them. It features kid-friendly activities like trivia and interactive videos, and a 360° virtual reality combine experience that gives students an opportunity to see what it is like to combine a field of soybeans.
On the day the Grains on the Go trailer traveled to Elmira, Ontario, in February 2023, there were long line-ups of students eagerly waiting to take a turn in the combine seat and try out the virtual reality experience.
“It was really cool,” says Elena Knudsen, a grade five student at John Mahood Public School. “I had never seen a combine before, and I liked seeing what farmers do when they harvest.”
Doug Wagter, an Ontario Certified Teacher and former grain farmer, joined the Grain Farmers of Ontario communications department in October 2022, and has been working with Curtis and other Grain Farmers of Ontario staff to develop the curriculum-linked programming.
“Agriculture is not a specific part of the Ontario elementary school curriculum, but we can pair it with science, math, and social studies, for example,” says Wagter. Focusing on the grade three science and technology curriculum, Wagter has developed a number of grain-focused lesson plans and activities that complement the ‘growth and changes of plants’ learning outcomes.
Throughout the winter and spring of 2023, Wagter took his lessons, activities, and the Grains on the Go Trailer on the road, visiting 13 schools to pilot the program. More than 3,000 students have taken part so far, including all the students in grades three to six at John Mahood Public School.
2023-2024 SCHOOL YEAR PLANS
Following a successful pilot of the programming, Wagter will be hitting the road again this fall. The Grains on the Go trailer will be on display at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in September and the RAWF in November, where thousands of students and teachers will have the opportunity to learn about grains and grain farming.
And with several classroom and school visits already booked, Wagter is excited about the opportunity to bring the Grains on the Go trailer and his lesson plans to students across the province throughout the fall, winter, and spring.
“We want to get the word out to as many teachers as possible,” says Wagter, who encourages farmer-members to share the information about the program with their local schools or teachers in their family or community.
For more information about how to bring the Grains on the Go trailer or to arrange a classroom visit to your local schools, visit www.GoodinEveryGrain.ca/Grains-on-the-Go/ or contact Doug Wagter at firstname.lastname@example.org. •