More than 650 third-grade students in 10 Porter County schools should know a bit more about agriculture now than they did before Ag Month-March began. That's because they were recently visited in their classrooms by three farmers, who are also supervisors for the Porter County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Michelle Benson, District coordinator, assisted in setting up the education program. Designed to coincide the ag program, this was the first time the Porter County district had tried this particular type of educational effort.
Farmers who helped in the classroom included Jim Lambert, Porter County SWCD chairman, his son, Jim Jr., Keith Gustafson and Tom Hannon. The format guided the students through an educational process related to learning about soybeans—what they are, how they are grown, and how they're used. The ultimate goal also involves helping students understand why farmers who grow soybeans pay attention to soil conservation, and conserving of their natural resources on their farms.
"We wanted to give students a firsthand look at conservation and agriculture right in their own county, and this seemed like a start to achieving that goal," Says Lambert, the SWCD board chairman.
Students were broken into groups, and were asked to go through a process which helped them grade the soybeans for quality. The goal was to sell their 'crop' for $10 per bushel, but the farmers helped them understand how factors such as weed seeds and other types of dock reduce the price farmers receive for what they grow.
One key aspect of the program was to explain how soybeans are used in foods today. Since Porter County is close to Lake Michigan, the program also included a section on how locally—grown soybeans travel form the harbor at Lake Michigan all around the world.
To help students remember that soybeans wind up in many products, the teams that visited the classroom left behind boxes of soybean crayons and other school supplies. Soybean crayons were commercialized after their invention by a team of Purdue University students in the soybean technology competition a few years ago. A grant from the Indiana Soybean Alliance helped purchase the crayons.