Thousands of Kansas students have a better understanding of agriculture thanks to the efforts of Serita Blankenship, recipient of the 2021 Partnership in Agricultural Literacy Award. The award is sponsored by the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) and the National Grange Foundation.
YOUTH EDUCATION: Serita Blankenship, Kansas Farm Bureau educator, will receive the 2021 Partnership in Agricultural Literacy Award from the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization and the National Grange Foundation on July 1 in Des Moines, Iowa. Blankenship has spent more than 20 years educating elementary and high school students about agriculture and was instrumental in the rollout of the “Kailey’s Agriculture Adventure” book series and related lesson plans by KFB. (Courtesy of Kansas Farm Bureau)
Blankenship has spent more than 20 years educating students at the elementary and secondary levels about the importance of agriculture through programs like “Be Ag Wise” and the rollout of the Kailey's Agriculture Adventure book series and related lesson plans. She will be honored July 1 at the 2021 NAITCO Conference at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
Be Ag Wise was a program that lasted more than a decade and was one of the largest, most successful projects Blankenship assisted in implementing. The joint effort of the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom (KFAC) and Kansas Farm Bureau provided workshops in four locations across the state each year. Those workshops taught 1,000 educators how to incorporate agricultural themes into lessons in a train-the-trainer format.
As a KFB member, Blankenship helped distribute the “Kailey’s Agriculture Adventure” book series to educators. The seven-book series, written by Dan Yunk and published by KFB, follows the travels of the character Kailey as she visits the farm to learn more about agriculture. Each book in the series has a set of lesson plans, resources, activities, fun facts and a glossary to help educators use it in the classroom. Blankenship was integral to putting these pieces together, as well as getting the books and resources into the hands of Kansas teachers.
Agricultural education is Blankenship’s passion, and she’s built on her train-the-trainer model by implementing a program for high school student-leaders so they can lead other kids to agriculture knowledge. The program has trained more than 380 Kansas high school student-leaders about the importance of agriculture and how they can educate younger students about the industry.
Blankenship has served on the KFAC Education Committee; is a staff liaison for the KFB Women’s Committee; is the farm safety manager at KFB, leading farm safety demonstrations; and has presented at National Agriculture Hall of Fame events, the American Royal BBQ Kids’ Area, the Kansas State Fair, Kansas State Capitol South Step Friday events and more.
A model to follow
“In the short time I have been with the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, I have learned that Serita shares KFAC’s passion for Kansas agriculture and commitment to increasing agricultural literacy,” says Nancy Zenger-Beneda, KFAC executive director. “Her guidance on our education committee and the agricultural education task force has been a big part of our successes.”
NAITCO is a nonprofit organization that represents state AITC programs across the U.S.
Its president, Tammy Maxey, says the organization depends on educators like Blankenship to deliver agricultural literacy outreach to students.
“Her passion for reaching students with reading programs and involving older students to teach younger students is inspiring,” Maxey says.
The National Grange Foundation presents this award each year to recognize the passion, creativity and impact that ag educators have in their efforts to help children understand agriculture.
“Agriculture is a part of every minute of our lives — from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the fuel we use — and early education about this vital industry is so important,” says Betsy Huber, National Grange Foundation president. “Serita’s efforts have impacted a generation of consumers and had the potential to inspire young people to become producers and agriculture advocates. We cannot think of a better person to honor this year, especially after we have seen just how essential agriculture is throughout the pandemic.”