Pandemic-related school closures left our school gardens underutilized and limited students' opportunities for hands-on science projects that typically promote AG literacy in K-12 education. To mitigate the loss of these valuable educational opportunities, the Tulare County Farm Bureau (TCFB) actively engaged local teachers to bring agricultural concepts to the virtual classroom by unveiling a competitive grant program open to Tulare County teachers. Each sponsored project received support of up to $500 to integrate AG literacy programming into virtual classrooms.
Utilizing TCFB financial support and leveraging support from our UCCE Tulare County office, Mrs. Honley and I collaborated to deliver two AG education projects integrating with the third-grade science curriculum. In November 2020, 90 kits were distributed to parents and guardians at a supply distribution event. Students from three classes attended a Zoom lecture and question and answer session on cloning and its use in agricultural systems, including production of several commodities in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Students were instructed on the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction in plants, and the role of cloning in producing homogeneous crops with select, desirable attributes. Additionally, the lesson covered modern advances in animal cloning, including the cloning of both dairy cattle and horses. Students learned of implementation of cloning to replicate severely endangered animals, particularly when the last known individual faces mortality, a precursor to extinction. Each student propagated succulents and shared the growth progress via Class Dojo, an app facilitating communication between students, teachers, and parents. After a return to the socially-distanced classroom, a second program in Spring 2021 focused on discussion of the center of origin of crop plants grown and consumed in the United States and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Students propagated potatoes from seed potatoes and were exposed to the genetic diversity among potato varieties. Mrs. Lori Irvine, the Linwood Garden Club leader also planted seed potatoes in the Linwood Elementary garden, allowing students to follow the plants' growth and development from planting to harvest.
Public service is one of the five components of an advisor's program in the UCCE system. The TCFB's support for distance education during this challenging academic year fostered the initiation of a new public service opportunity benefiting our local community. It has been a pleasure to work with Mrs. Honley and Linwood's third grade students on this TCFB-supported program.