One out of every four jobs is affected by agriculture in the state, according to the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
The MFBF is a member-based nonprofit that advocates for farmers, and one of the programs the nonprofit offers is called “Ag in the Classroom.”
Fran Guerry leads the charge in Lowndes County for Ag in the Classroom, which focuses on teaching children from kindergarten through 12th grade how agriculture affects them. She spoke to the Exchange Club of Columbus about the program on Thursday.
“I go into schools, and I help kids of all ages know where their food, fiber and shelter come from,” Guerry said. “You would be surprised how many will tell you they’ve never had a carrot. All they know is chicken nuggets and french fries. So, it gets all into some nutrition, where it’s coming from and planting seeds and all sorts of things.”
The curriculum for Mississippi’s Ag in the Classroom is developed by Mississippi State University’s School of Human Sciences. Lesson plans are created with agriculture and educators in mind. It is meant for ease in the classroom for all ages.
“These programs have been structured and created through Mississippi State, and it meets all of the educational requirements,” Guerry said. “They run it through all of the curriculum and the algorithms and make sure it’s all doing what it’s supposed to do. Then they hand it to people like me to go out and teach it. … In Mississippi, we are an agricultural state, and I help these kids to learn to love our state.”
Some ways the MFBF and Guerry look to inspire children is through art. She wants kids to learn about and be inspired by agriculture, as it plays such an important role in their lives.
Some curriculum is based around books such as “One Fish, Two Fish” by Dr. Seuss. Other times students can get hands-on experience by stepping into a beekeeper’s uniform or by learning how to plant a butterfly garden.
“I just try to really help them know that our state is doing important things and that they can be involved in (it),” Guerry said. “Even if I teach them something as simple as how to plant a butterfly garden that is helping our pollinators. … I can see them start to think, and their little neurons start firing. They can begin to think, ‘Could I do something like this?’ All my program is trying to do is to get kids really inspired and thinking about agriculture, but I just want to take it outside the box in any area.”
Though not all children will feel compelled to go into a career in agriculture, Guerry mostly aims to challenge children to think about all the ways that agriculture can impact their lives.
The program also honors a teacher of the year, and this year’s award in Lowndes County went to Melissa Parker, a first-grade teacher at West Lowndes Elementary School.
“She’s written a grant, so she’s gotten an incubator in her classroom,” Guerry said. “They’re incubating chicks right now. It’s so fun to hear her. I was trying to get her to tell me a little bit about it and what they have learned. (Parker) said, ‘Well, I learned that chickens will tickle the kids, and they’ll drop them. So you have to make sure they hold them over something.’ That is not what I meant, but I thought it was so funny. She went immediately logistical, but we honored Melissa with our teacher of the year.”
Farming heavily impacts the state, and Guerry is one of the many teaching the youth about the importance of agriculture.
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