Back to School will mean 584 teachers will be looking at things a little differently this year!  Where as they’ll still think of class lists, school supplies and probably the temperatures outside, these teachers will also consider the Ethanol in the tanks of the parent pick up line cars, the Soy Bio-Diesel in the school busses, and even the variety of agricultural products used to field a baseball game!

This summer 584 teachers from across the state participated in 29 Summer Agricultural Institutes sponsored by the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program with the support of the various commodity groups across the state.  Since 1991 over 8,000 teachers have participated in these week long, intensive training sessions for professional development or college credit.   

With the support of Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Producers, and the Midwest Dairy Association, (among others!) the teachers had an experience that they won’t soon forget.   Each Summer Ag Institute included visits from various commodity organizations with presentations about how commodities can be incorporated into traditional classroom education.  The Illinois AITC program presented sample lessons and materials showcasing the ease in which agriculture can assist students in meeting Illinois Learning Standards.  But most importantly, the teachers got to go and examine agriculture in ways they’ve never experienced—in the field. 

Kathy, a Kindergarten teacher from East-Central Illinois said “I was amazed at the technical side of farming’, Lindsay from North-Central Illinois added, “I visited places in my own county that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve lived here my whole life!”  Sheryl from Southern Illinois added, “Agriculture is much broader and more complicated than the stereotypical idea of farming.  The Summer Ag Institute really opened my eyes as an educator, student and an on-going learner.’ Colleen from North-Eastern Illinois summed up her experience saying “I didn’t know what to expect from this class.  I did not realize how integral of a role agriculture plays in all of our lives. I definitely was not expecting to gain as much knowledge as I did or take away so many great ideas to use in my classroom. I plan to teach an agriculture based lesson once a week in my class.”

Year after year, teachers who have taken our Summer Ag Institutes have become ‘cheerleaders’ for agriculture in general.  It couldn’t come at a more critical time, as all of agriculture continues to face the challenges of fewer and fewer people understanding what is going on in barns, fields and combines across the state. 

AITC is grateful to the commodity groups and individuals who support our effort to help teachers understand how Illinois agriculture plays a role in the world’s food, fiber and fuel system.

Looking for a way to help? Consider adopting a classroom of Chicago area students and becoming a ‘pen pal’ on a monthly basis with a class—explain your farm operation and eyes will indeed be opened–yours and theirs!  For more information about our Adopt A Classroom Program contact me at

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Ag in the Classroom

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