Local elementary students take virtual trip to farm

Local elementary students take virtual trip to farm

Posted Oct. 30, 2014

Students of Jordan Creek Elementary in West Des Moines had the chance to ride in a combine and experience corn harvest firsthand earlier this week with the leader of agriculture in Iowa – Secretary Bill Northey – without ever leaving their classroom.

Through an Ag in the Classroom program called FarmChat, students interacted with and asked questions of Northey learning about Iowa crops.

FarmChat utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm into the classroom. Students can speak directly with the farmer and even ride along in the combine all from the safety and security of their classroom.

“It is a great way to enable more students to experience the farm,” said Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation education program manager Cindy Hall. “Speaking directly with farmers makes the learning come to life.”

Students learned about how corn is raised, how it is harvested and how important it is to the economy of Iowa. More than 100 students in the 4th grade classes were able to take part in the conversation. They were given a virtual tour of the field and combine and virtually helped bring in the harvest.

Polk County Farm Bureau helped coordinate the event in the West Des Moines classroom. Elementary teacher Jan Bergman said her students were engaged the entire time. One of them even commented, “It’s like he’s talking just to us!” Another student commented “I feel like we’re in the field with him!” Bergman went on to say that this experience made it real for the students and helped them connect to Sec. Northey and his farm. Instead of just learning about the harvest, they experienced it.

Ag in the Classroom is a grassroots program focused on helping students gain a greater awareness of the role that agriculture plays in our economy and society. The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation supports Ag in the Classroom efforts throughout Iowa and coordinates programs like FarmChat.

Bill Northey is a fourth generation farmer from Spirit Lake, Iowa and raises corn and soybeans. He is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and leads the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He prioritizes advancing science and new technologies to better care for air, soil and water and also reaching out to all Iowans – including students – to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.

“Most students don’t have any opportunity to experience what happens on a farm,” said Northey. “It is great to share what we are doing here on our farm with them.”

For more information about FarmChat or to learn more about Agriculture in the Classroom programs in your area, visit www.iowaagliteracy.org.