By Nancy Gutierrez

From a university professor singing to the music of Will Smith about food born illnesses to presentations on NASAs involvement with agriculture, the Ag in the Classroom conference held Oct. 21-23 provided elementary and junior high school teachers with enough resources to teach a semesters worth of lessons.

The AITC conference goal is to provide educators with agricultural resources and know-how for easily incorporating agricultural examples into everyday classroom teaching.

Rocky Hill Elementary School Teachers Stan Dillon, Doug Snider, and Cassie Hulsey attended the conference with the help of Food Service Director Brian Supple who acquired a grant to pay the teachers conference fees. Each of the teachers participated in workshops and make-and-take presentations. Snider and Hulsey attended a presentation on the three sisters garden. The three sisters are squash, beans and corn and are grouped because of their complementing nature when interplanted. Hulsey and Snider also learned about nutrition in the workshop and were given visuals on how much fat and sugar is in junk-food like soda and chips. Dillon participated in a workshop given by UC Davis professor Dr. Carl Winters. Winters talked to teachers about making food safety fun and memorable.

Other workshops included an exploration of free lesson plans that teach the story of food issues, hunger and malnutrition in America and around the world; Space Ag in the Classroom, which provided national science standards and web resources that integrate space and agriculture into curriculum; and School Energy Efficiency programs among others.

The make-n-take sessions provided teachers with actual lessons that produced an end product for students to take home. Teachers crowded into tables where floral arrangements, beeswax candles, and water-cycles-in-a-jar were being made. Teachers could also sit at tables that provided information on grant writing for school gardens and learn about the major pollutants affecting air quality.

Following these informational session teachers took educational tours of agriculture institutions around the county. Teachers from across the state saw first hand the complexity and scope of agriculture in the area by visiting the Hilarides 9,000 cow dairy, the Visalia cooperative cotton gin which produces 12-13,000 bales of cotton a year, Monrovia Nursery, the Cricket Ranch, and Balin Farms nut processing packaging and shipping among several others.

Participants also learned about agriculture and its importance in the classroom from guest speakers like A.G. Kawamura, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, and Gavin Payne the Chief Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education.

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