A revamped Farm Camp Minnesota is offering interactive experiences for students and teachers across the state.
Originally run by volunteers as a day camp in summer, Farm Camp Minnesota came under the director of the Minnesota Ag in the Classroom Foundation board of directors in 2019. Along with the move came a redesign of programming and a five-year commitment from major funders.
“Our goal for 2021-22 is to set up six to right Farm Camps per month,” says Ann Vote, FCM program director. Camps will be held either in-person or virtually on farms and at agricultural businesses.
The structure of the new FCM is a three-day, uniquely tailored experience per classroom to fully immerse students and teachers in agriculture and potential ag careers. Day 1 is in-classroom learning about what students will see on their tour. The second day is the on-site or virtual farm or business tour. And the third day takes learning to the next level with discussion about possible careers. FCM provides all the resources — connecting the teacher with the farm or business host, lessons and resource materials, and information on careers.
Vote has spent most of the summer talking with teachers and brainstorming about potential tours. As of late July, she was working with teachers in Stearns County on seventh grade science all-day tours, and with educators in the Twin Cities on tour options.
The expectation is that a three-day topic immersion will make a lasting impression on students.
MAPLE SYRUP TOUR: Farm Camp Minnesota helped coordinate several in-person and virtual educational tours during the 2020-21 school year. In March, St. Mary’s Bird Island second and third graders were able to attend an in-person farm tour, while farmers Kelsie and Ryan Aeikens were harvesting their maple sap. Students carried buckets of sap, watched it boil down, learned how it is filtered and even got to take home their very own bottle of syrup. (Courtesy of Farm Camp Minnesota
“We expect teachers to do the [ag] lesson the day before the tour,” Vote says. “That way, students will have a better experience and come prepared with questions.” The career exploration follow-up will help connect what students saw and learned to an expanse of job opportunities.
The pandemic last year prompted FCM leadership to focus on funding efforts and explore virtual learning — a blessing in disguise, Vote says. Last school year, they were able to host 11 virtual FCM tours — nine involving farms and two grade-specific camp events.
VIRTUAL TOUR: Ashley Kettner, co-owner of Split Rock Ranch, presented information about her beef cattle to fifth graders across Redwood and Renville counties during a virtual Farm Camp Minnesota, sponsored with assistance from the Redwood Area Chamber Ag Committee. (Courtesy of Farm Camp Minnesota)
One of the events was Fifth Grade Ag Day in the Redwood Falls area, which involved 22 classrooms and more than 300 students. They “visited” and learned about soybeans, lambs, pigs and beef cattle. Feedback from teachers at all the camps was overwhelmingly positive, Vote says. A big plus when taking a virtual tour? Everyone can see and hear, they noted.
If farmers and ag businesses are interested in participating in either in-person or virtual FCM, Vote encourages them to contact her, and she will add them to the list she keeps and shares with educators. Vote will assist with planning the on-farm tour — from how to get started to sharing tips on hosting a successful tour. Numerous resources are available, too, including videos with educators who explain how to deliver content to varying age levels of students.