When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ag in the Classroom volunteers were no longer able to interact with students in a traditional way. Schools moved to virtual learning and even once they returned to in-person classes, visitors were not allowed inside most classrooms.
It was clear that the AITC program would need to adapt so that volunteers could continue engaging with students.
“COVID pushed us to think outside the box,” said Lindi Kocher, INFB education coordinator.
The result was INFB’s Adopt a Classroom program, an enhancement to AITC that allows volunteers to reach students from across the state virtually and help them understand the importance of Indiana agriculture.
Through Adopt a Classroom, volunteers can interact with their adopted classrooms using live or recorded video lessons, letters and photos.
This year, 61 classrooms have been adopted by volunteers, which is an increase from 40 classrooms in 2020 – the first year the program was available. That amounts to 2,200 students being reached.
Corina Brant of Tippecanoe County is preparing to participate in Adopt a Classroom for her second year. She has volunteered with five classrooms, ranging from preschool to fifth grade, through both in-person and virtual formats. She wanted to get involved with the program to help students understand why farmers care about the future of agriculture.
“I was nervous about having to teach virtually,” said Brant. “But I was paired with an amazing teacher and class who always had in-depth questions and really showed me they were listening, learning and remembering.”
Brant’s goal is to interact with her classrooms once a month through a 45-minute lesson or activity. This year, she plans to incorporate a mixture of both in-person and virtual learning.
“Doing a lesson virtually gives me the ability to reach outside my typical audience and make a closer connection with more urban schools that are further away,” she said. “In-person teaching allows me to do more hands-on activities.”
Adopt a Classroom serves as a reminder to Brant that while she and her husband grew up around agriculture, not everyone has had that experience – making it important to share how students and adults can support and help grow the industry.
Over 130 INFB members are active AITC volunteers.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or want to learn more about AITC, visit www.infb.org/INFBAgEd.