Agricultural Education: 3 Ways to Help Local Schools

Many school district budgets don't cover agricultural education. As a chicken-keeper or farmer, you can give elementary school students a start.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: Ana Hotaling

The new school year is under way across much of the country, with thousands of children ready to resume learning.

If you’ve been looking for ways to become more involved in your community, now is the perfect time to do so. How? By reaching out to your local school and offering your services as an agricultural education specialist.

Many school systems run on limited funds. This often results in abbreviated curricula that covers fewer topics than teachers would like. By making your resources available to local schoolchildren, you can enrich their learning experience. You can also introduce them to an agrarian lifestyle they might not know even exists in their residential area.

You can become involved with your local elementary school in numerous ways, with different levels of personal involvement. Evaluate what you can provide and when. Then call the school’s principal or another administrator and set up an appointment to discuss your offerings.

Have a written proposal for administrators to review. Say what kind of agricultural education you believe would work best for the teachers and students. Be sure to include lots of photos of your flock. Also, bringing a dozen fresh eggs never hurts.

Share the Mystery of Life

hatching chicks

Hatching chicks in the classroom is a popular and wondrous way for early-elementary students to learn about the cycle of life. To facilitate this basic biology lesson, you need to provide each class in the designated grade level with the following:

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  • a small incubator equipped with temperature and humidity readings and egg turner
  • enough hatching eggs to fill each incubator
  • a chick brooder equipped with chick waterer, chick feeder, chick starter and shavings

In addition, you need to visit each classroom several times to:

  • set up the incubator and give the students a brief presentation about the hatching cycle of chicks and basic guidelines about what to do—and not to do—with the incubator
  • candle the eggs at the appropriate stages of embryonic development
  • pick up the equipment and the hatchlings

Be sure to give each teacher your contact information in case he or she needs to contact you with questions or concerns and to let you know when the chicks have hatched in order for you to plan their pickup. This might go without saying, but here it is anyway: If you’re not in a position to take the chicks or have another home for them after they hatch, find another way to help in the classroom.

Provide Animal Visits

chickens classroom schools
Ana Hotaling

Many children have never seen a live chicken, duck or turkey. They might not even have heard of a quail or a guinea. If you raise any or all of these species, you have an excellent opportunity to provide agricultural education to kids about the wide world of domestic poultry. While you can set this up as one visit, featuring all the different birds you raise, remember that young kids have short attention spans and might start getting antsy the longer you take to present your birds.

A better option is to set up a “bird of the week” visit, bringing a different animal each time. Not only will this build anticipation and excitement with the children, but it’s also easier on your birds, as they won’t have to wait in confinement for the duration of one long presentation. If you raise turkeys, try to schedule your visits for late autumn so that your turkey-visit times as closely as possible to Thanksgiving.

Arts and Crafts

egg carton planter
Ana Hotaling

If your schedule simply does not grant you the time for visits to your local school—or if you would rather not expose your birds to the stresses of travel and crowds of people—you can still be involved with your local school by providing materials such as egg cartons, feathers and empty feed sacks for several arts-and-crafts projects. Kids love creating things, and the knowledge that their projects originate from a local farm will pique their creativity and interest even further. To prevent possible salmonella infection, donate only clean, unused egg cartons, and thoroughly wash and dry all feathers prior to donation.

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