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Federal Program Aims To Improve Agricultural Literacy

I was so interested in the success of the Walton Rural Life Center in rural Walton, Kan., that I did a little digging to see what other kinds of agriculture-based educational programs were out there.

As it turns out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an Agriculture in the Classrooms program that aims to improve agricultural literacy among pre-K through 12th grade students and teachers across the country.

The program has been around since 1981, and it came out of a recommendation from a national task force organized by the USDA. Representatives of agricultural groups and educators had gathered in the nation's capital to discuss agricultural literacy, and a task force picked from that group recommended that the USDA sponsor regional meetings to help states organize their own programs.

Every state offers Agriculture in the Classroom programs, but they operate in different ways. Some states hire state employees to coordinate the work, others have an all-volunteer network, and still others have organized nonprofits so they can benefit from a tax-deductible status.

Funding for those programs happens in different ways, too. The Enid News, in Enid, Okla., reported this week that the state Board of Education had approved a budget that included funding for the program.

Apparently, that funding had been cut under the prior state superintendent's tenure, but Superintendent Janet Barresi reinstated $38,675 for Agriculture in the Classroom.

In Oklahoma, all of the Agriculture in the Classrooms lessons are aligned to the state standards, and 96 percent of the state's pre-K through 8th grade teachers received curriculum to incorporate agricultural literacy into their classrooms.

The national Agriculture in the Classroom Web site lists the resources and contacts for each state.

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