The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) program remains a trusted resource for Lee County children to learn about agriculture. This fall the program received funding to continue classroom lessons thanks to IAA Foundation grants to local county coalitions.
Eighty coalitions serving 89 Illinois counties were awarded $647,000 in grant dollars which can be used for materials, trainings, educational lessons and activities taking place during the 2022-2023 school year. “Providing these grants ensures access to lessons with emphasis on STEM that incorporate accurate agricultural content for teachers and students,” 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 through IAITC. “The last two years have been anything but typical in Illinois schools, however this past school year, we saw student reach increase by 25% and teacher reach increase by 55%, showing a positive trend as re-adjustments continue.” Daugherty reflected.
Katie Pratt serves as Lee County’s AITC coordinator and has also seen this upward trend. Already this school year, she has visited all elementary and jr. high schools in the county. “Lesson topics range from how a plant grows to world hunger and food security,” Pratt said.
She visits some classrooms on a weekly or monthly basis and other classrooms for a one-time special presentation. “I like getting in front of the students more than once,” she said. “Then I can build on what we’ve learned and also tie it back to the classroom curriculum.”
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 grateful to 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.