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Minnesota Ag in the Classroom forced to evolve due to COVID-19

With many schools going virtual or implementing distance learning, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom has made changes to help students and educators.

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Minnesota Ag in the Classroom offers a number of virtual farm tours, including this one from Meadow Star Dairy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s program Minnesota Ag in the Classroom has had to make some adjustments to better suit virtual learning.

“We have changed or translated our resources into formats that are more distant-learning-friendly; this way it is set up in a better way now for students to go through it independently, since many are participating in virtual learning,” said Keri Sidle, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom education specialist.

Resources that Minnesota Ag in the Classroom provides to teachers include professional development, standard-based resources and grants to purchase supplies.

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Minnesota Ag in the Classroom has begun offering more virtual field trips and online content to help teachers with virtual learning. (Contributed photo)

A resource that plays a large role in the curriculum is AgMag.

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“The AgMag is a resource for all learning environments,” Sidle says. “Because it is available in both print and online, teachers can use it seamlessly, whether in-person, distance learning or hybrid.”

AgMag was first printed in 1986, and has been a part of Minnesota Ag in the Classroom ever since. Subscriptions for teachers are free, and the new website offers digital editions, for kindergarten through sixth grade. The website has interactive activities for students, as well as additional resources for teachers.

“It is almost like a magazine that has articles and stories about agriculture, and the theme throughout the content relates back to the standard for various subjects. We encourage educators to use both print and the website together,” Sidle said.

Besides expanding the AgMag, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom has begun offering more virtual field trips.

“Virtual field trips are easier in the sense that you don't have to hire a bus for transportation, but it can also be more challenging. Internet signal is a big problem, especially in rural areas. Then, at times we also had trouble with technology. But it's really cool to be able to take kids to a farm or show them something new that probably would have been cost prohibitive or time prohibitive,” Sidle said.

The virtual field trips have been a success, and teachers have been pleased with the opportunity for their students. Sidle, a former educator, sympathizes with teachers having to navigate changes brought by the pandemic.

“My colleague and I are both former teachers. We just could not imagine what teachers are going through right now. Having to do all that transforming themselves, so we wanted to provide resources that would hopefully make their lives a little easier during this difficult time," Sidle said.

If you are interested in learning more about Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, please visit Minnesota Ag in the Classroom .

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For more ag news go to agweek.com.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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