As our teachers and students head back into the classroom, we pick up where we left off from last year and celebrate a new beginning. Refreshed, we begin again and look to use advances in technology, energy and solar to grab the interest of our young learners. Agriculture education works to engage students using hands on learning, which includes innovations in technology and the power of reusable energy. There are several opportunities to learn from others and to connect with agencies and organizations working with schools on these topics. This school year, let’s focus our efforts to connect beyond the classroom.
For many years, the movement supporting agriculture education in Arizona has worked to build school gardens, train teachers on the industry of Arizona agriculture and offer teachers the resources necessary to bring agriculture into the classroom. Today, the number of agencies and organizations working with and for our schools around agriculture education has multiplied. Together we are seeing advancements in teacher resources for school gardening, which include online food safety training, increased training for school garden development and assistance for local foods entering the classroom through programs like the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant.
We are seeing our universities adopt schools for research around science, community development and curriculum that enhances behavior change, as seen in Arizona State University’s work with Brunson-Lee Elementary and their use of cyber-physical system technologies. Students create solutions based off of data collected from the internet and information collected from sensors placed in the garden about how well the garden is growing.
There are entities whose entire mission is to develop school gardens in disadvantaged areas of Arizona; this includes in large part our Native American communities. In these community gardens, kitchens and all the needs of a campus are powered by reusable energy like solar units, as seen at STAR Charter School in Luepp, Arizona. Food CorpsAZ members have assisted in the school’s mission to power themselves off-the-grid by using solar paneling to power everything from a vegetable drying room to charging alternators for back-up in case of emergency.
Many of these organizations are members of the Maricopa County Food System Coalition, a volunteer association of people who work in the industry or are interested in building a strong local food system. The coalition consists of key stakeholders of the food movement, from producers to community advocates that include state and local government, agencies and organizations that work on community programming, academic researchers and individuals who want to volunteer their time improving access to fresh, healthy and local food.
Key organizations involved in Agriculture Education include: the Arizona Department of Health Services, the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Cooperative Extension, Arizona State University, Arizona Farm Bureau, Food Corps AZ and the Arizona Department of Education.
For more information, visit marcofoodcoalition.org.
Ashley Schimke is a program specialist for the Arizona Department of Education working to bring Arizona grown foods into school meal programs. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Dietetics at Arizona State University and is an active member of the Maricopa County Food System Coalition.
Read more articles about education at greenlivingaz.com/education