The Brad McCauley family is about to become a familiar sight to thousands of Kansas teachers and students as an educational book published by Kansas Corn, titled “We Grow Corn — Raising corn on a Kansas family farm,” goes into use around the state.
The book also has a video series and will play a major role in the Kansas Corn STEM program, which provides STEM-based lessons and classroom materials to teachers from kindergarten through high school. More than 1,300 teachers and 50,000 students were participants in the program during the 2018-19 school year.
The book follows Brad and Danyelle McCauley and their four children to show students how corn is grown through photographs, information and fun facts. The book also includes a page on growing irrigated corn and features the Steve Rome family farm in southwest Kansas. Eight online videos featuring both Brad and Steve go with the book, and an online teacher resource page is available to teachers.
Brad says participating in the project was fun for his family.
“We had a really good time and I really enjoyed working with and teaching my own kids,” he says. “They have grown up on the farm and already knew a lot, but I think they learned a lot more. For the book, we took a really science-based approach but in a way that would be easy for students to understand.”
Sharon Thielen, Kansas Corn education director and author of the book, says the farm families played a key role in developing the project.
“Farmers were involved in every step of creating this book and video series. We especially appreciate the help of the McCauley and Rome farm families who brought this project to life. Our goal was to make this an informative book about corn farming in Kansas while providing STEM learning opportunities,” Thielen says. “Working with Manhattan-based photographer and videographer Ray Martinez, we were able to capture stunning images that authentically depict a year on Kansas corn farms.”
Brad says his family was contacted about participating because of his dad’s longtime involvement with the Kansas and National Corn Growers Associations. He says they wanted to do the project to support STEM education in Kansas schools.
“This project was important to our family because it supports education in our schools by showing how we grow corn on our family farm,” Brad says. “Science and technology play a big role in growing corn and other crops in Kansas. That’s why corn farmers support this effort to support STEM learning in our Kansas classrooms.”
He says he was told to pretend he was talking to fifth-graders during interviews for the book and videos.
“We tried to take a broad spectrum approach that would appeal to a wide audience in an understandable way,” he says.
The “We Grow Corn” book and video series is part of a larger offering of lessons and material for K-12 teachers. The hands-on lessons include sprouting corn seeds, understanding soil and water needs for crops, and making corn-based plastics and ethanol in challenging high school lab experiments.
The book is available to Kansas teachers, and a book will also be included in each teacher kit sent out this year through the Kansas Corn STEM program. Teachers can order lessons and materials for their grade level online at kscorn.com/education. A teacher guide, online access to the book, videos and photos are available at kscorn.com/wegrowcorn.
The McCauleys farm near White Cloud in Brown and Doniphan counties.
The Kansas Corn STEM program is led by Kansas Corn staff and teachers across the state who write lessons and labs for use in Kansas classrooms. The program received national recognition with the “Reaching for Excellence” award from the National Corn Growers Association earlier this year.This article contains material supplied by Kansas Corn.