John Gaudes, Communications Manager, Ag in the Classroom Manitoba
WITH A NEW year underway, Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba (AITC-M) is set to bring a number of direct experiences, classroom resources, and teacher training opportunities to school divisions across Manitoba.
The start of a year is always a fun and exciting opportunity to get offerings into classrooms and engage with students, but there’s also a greater sense of purpose for Katharine Cherewyk, executive director of AITC-M – one that has to do with public trust.
“We see that our future decision- makers, briefing-note writers, regulators, and consumers are in classrooms right now,” says Cherewyk. “Because of that, we ensure that our programs are high-quality, fun and educational, and tell the story of where our food comes from. But we also know we have a serious job to do. We have the opportunity to shape future critical thinkers and advocates of agriculture regardless of whether they end up working in the industry or not. We are committed to working with as many educators and partners as possible to ensure that a diverse Manitoba agricultural industry is valued by all now and in the future.
In the last five years, AITC-M has steadily increased the number of teacher “champions” they work with in the province – champions who decide to make agriculture education a part of their classrooms.
“Our teacher-champions carry the message for us every day,” says Cherewyk. “Every time a class turns over, every time
a new student enters the room – teacher- champions carry the message encouraging students to learn more about agriculture.”
Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM) in March is just one of the exciting programs on the way from AITC-M this spring, but it promises to be a highlight.
Over 300 classrooms will have in-person visits from producers and agriculture professionals for the first time in three years. CALM volunteers will bring hands-on activities, an agriculture-themed book, and their own agriculture story to Grade 2–4 classrooms across the province.
Every year for CALM, AITC-M chooses a theme for classroom visits. This year, volunteers will look at sustainability through the lens of food loss and waste. Students will learn about how to avoid food waste at home, and how producers and other industry professionals work
to limit food loss and waste in their everyday work.
“We’re excited to have CALM starting in March and that we’ve said yes to every teacher who requested a visit in 2023 by matching them with passionate volunteers,” says Cherewyk. “The industry stepped up in a huge way, and it’s great that this farm-to-food connection is happening in person once again.”
The connection between producers and students doesn’t end in March, though. Follow the Farmers concludes its second season of livestream farm tours on April 19, as Grade 3–6 students will visit Andre Steppler’s farm in Miami, Manitoba to learn about beef production.
Each Follow the Farmers livestream includes a farm tour, a Q&A session between students and the farmer, and classroom activities directly linked to the curriculum to extend student learning. We are excited to announce that season three of Follow the Farmers will include the story of soybeans to the mix of virtual farm tours!
“We’ve had such a great response to Follow the Farmers since launching it in 2021, and have to send a big thank you to Penner Farm Services for being our video sponsor and Manitoba Beef Producers for helping make this last event possible,” says Cherewyk.
Also in April, AITC-M is connecting high school students to agriculture careers through the second annual thinkAG Career Expo.
This half-day event brings AITC-M staff, volunteers, and partners to a high school where Grade 9–12 students cycle through stations and presentations showing off the endless career and entrepreneurial opportunities in agri-food.
“Students appreciate seeing themselves in agricultural careers rather than just thinking agriculture is about farmers,” says Braden Zborowsky, a teacher at Kildonan- East Collegiate in Winnipeg whose students attended the first thinkAG Career Expo in November 2022. “The hands-on learning experiences were also great!”
Also in April, season two of the Great Canadian Farm Tour kicks off an 11-province tour that includes a stop in Manitoba to visit a chicken farm as part of an 11-province tour. The Agriculture in the Classroom Canada program encourages students to learn about Canada’s agriculture and food story while experiencing what it’s like on farms across the country.
“All these experiences are meant for students to remember discovering agriculture in elementary school, becoming more aware in middle school, and then challenged to think critically in high school so that when they graduate in 2030, 2050, and beyond, they KNOW agriculture, THINK agriculture, and FEEL connected to agriculture and make informed decisions for the rest of their lives,” says Cherewyk.
“We can’t do any of this work without the support of our funders like the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, so a big thank you goes to you. Over 75% of our funding is from individuals, commodity partners, and other industry organizations who renew their support every year. We won’t get to 2030, 2040, or 2050 without your support – so thank YOU!”