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Teacher Attends ‘Ag in the Classroom’ Workshop at Penn State

Some green thumbs will be displayed in Barbara J. Albert’s kindergarten class this fall at the Children’s Learning Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology, but they won’t be the result of any finger-painting activity.

Growing marigolds and lettuce hydroponically will be among the projects tackled by Albert’s charges, courtesy of an “Ag in the Classroom” workshop she attended recently at The Pennsylvania State University.

More than 100 teachers from across Pennsylvania attended the six-day session sponsored by the Agriculture Awareness Foundation of Pennsylvania. The educators gained hands-on experience and received tips and materials to help them educate children about the state’s No. 1 industry: agriculture.

Albert’s tuition and room and board for the session ($600) were paid for by the Lycoming County Pomona Grange. Grange officials, who saw an article about Albert in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette earlier this year after she won a teaching award, promptly offered her the opportunity to attend the workshop at their organization’s expense.

Albert, who serves as a group leader at the Children’s Learning Center, was happy to oblige and is eager to share the knowledge she gained at the workshop with the 5- and 6-year-olds in her kindergarten class.

“It was really a wonderful experience,” Albert said of the session. “I’m appreciative that I got to do it.”

The teachers participated in a variety of classes and field trips, including a visit to the East Coast’s largest dairy-farm operation. Instruction was provided by educators, including many from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences; executives and experts from the agri-business industry; and graduates from previous workshops. That made for a unique blend of theory and hands-on instruction, Albert said.

Much of the workshop dealt with how agricultural education can be integrated into existing curriculums and programs, Albert added, explaining, “I’ll be doing ag-based lessons in all areas.”

The workshop even provided a kit with which the kindergarten children can get started on their hydroponic-gardening adventure almost immediately. The only additional expense will be a submersible aquarium pump, Albert said.

Eventually, Albert will make a presentation to the Lycoming County Pomona Grange to explain how the lessons she learned at the AAFPA workshop have benefited her students.

Founded in 1991, the Agriculture Awareness Foundation of Pennsylvania is dedicated to educating people about the importance of food systems and the role of agriculture in their daily lives. To date, 776 teachers from 56 counties have participated in the workshops, reaching a total of more than 220,000 children.

To learn more about the AAFPA, call (717) 862-3486 or access the Web site. To learn more about the Children’s Learning Center at Penn College, call (570) 320-8026 or visit online.

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