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FARM Science Lab promotes Michigan agriculture


By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer

The Michigan Farm Bureau has made it their goal to encourage more educational opportunities to be presented within the public school systems throughout the state. Their website, www.miagclassroom.org, offers lesson plans for various grades, ages, and interests while promoting agriculture and the importance of it in the state.

Another project they organized was the FARM (Farm, Agriculture, and Resources in Motion) Science Lab, a 40-foot trailer filled with technology, hands-on opportunities, and exposure to the connection between the sciences and agriculture.

“This (the FARM Science Lab) is a launch pad to get them thinking,” Educator Julie Stephenson said. “It’s a realization for the teachers that science includes math and sometimes history. English and language arts are worked in as well.”

The primary connection, though, is with agriculture. In a world where most people are two to three generations away from the farm, it is important to educate and inform them about what they eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced. That is one of the main goals of the FARM Science Lab by reaching out to elementary students with on site field trips. The mobile trailer is parked in a paved parking space on the school grounds for 2-4 days while the classrooms take their turns visiting it.

The walls of the trailer are covered with posters promoting agricultural ideas, products, and careers. One of the signs explains the steps to the scientific method while another is an acronym for the word GROUPS (Give Thoughtful Feedback, Respect Others, On Task All The Time, Use Soft Voices, Participate Actively, Stay With Your Group). There are also 28 different posters explaining the importance of various farm products, and seven signs with a myriad of career possibilities.

Each of the elementary school classes are invited to participate in the activity with several different lessons offered for the various grade levels. The lower elementary lessons for grade kindergarten to second include A is for Apple, which involves the five senses; Window Garden, where the children will learn about seeds and sprouting; and Build-A-Farm, with a hands on activity and learning about the role agriculture plays in their daily lives.

For grades third through fifth, another series of classes are offered. These fun lessons are titled Resourceful Bean, Parts Per What?, Extraction of Life, Field Plastic, and Spilled Milk. The average time of the teaching period is 30 minutes for the younger children and 50 for the older. Within the allotted time, the classes are engaged in discussion, question and answer time, hands-on projects, and technologically enhanced exercises.

All the educational resources offered by the Michigan Farm Bureau through the FARM Science Lab are designed to fulfill Next Generation Science Standards and National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes along with being STEM-based. A certified teacher is hired to run the programs with volunteers available to help with the sessions.

The mobile FARM Science Lab is available for schools in Michigan to book for $400 per day with a minimum of two days required. Additional information and booking dates are found on the www.miagclassroom.org website.

Numerous donors made the mobile educational unit possible with Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom and Michigan Foundation for Agriculture being the biggest supporters.

The pilot program was introduced in the spring of 2017 with the official start happening in September of the same year. While the concept is fairly new, Michigan is not the first to introduce their students to the idea. Kentucky and Pennsylvania already have trailers with theirs being the inspiration for the Michigan unit.