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Agriculture on the Move brings ag eduction to students

SPRINGFIELD, MO. – Agriculture has arrived at the Greenwood Laboratory School on the Missouri State University campus in Springfield, Mo. 

Malynne Atkinson teaches the Agriculture on the Move Program to Jill Martin’s fifth grade class of 30 students every Tuesday morning from early March through the end of April. She also teaches the program to Stacy Gray’s third grade class at the same location each week. The program boasts a 10-week curriculum with all materials provided for free to interested Missouri elementary schools. 

Malynne is no stranger to agriculture. She grew up locally, raising livestock and participating in FFA and 4-H as a child, and several years later as a mother, with her own two children. She and her husband own a farm in Willard, Mo., with registered Angus. Malynne retired from 29 years of teaching in Willard, Mo., and has recently re-entered the classroom to share her love of agriculture and how important it is to the students, parents, and communities she reaches through her educational instruction as part of Agriculture on the Move. 

“I love how the curriculum is structured and the students are very engaged and excited when I arrive each week,” Malynne said of the MO AG on the Move program.

Melissa Wilson, who recruited Malynne as a program educator, has worked for Agriculture on the Move for eight years. She started as a part-time educator and welcomed the role as Southwest Missouri Regional Lead three years ago. She was happy to provide ample resources and education on this program, with the intent of bringing the farm to the classroom, to ensure elementary students have a grasp of how important farming is to our community at large. 

Mo AG on the Move began in 2011 under the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. The program was initiated by Luella Gregor, former staff member at Mo Soy. The original intent of MO AG on the Move was to develop a curriculum of agriculture, ‘Farm to Classroom’, for third grade students in the state of Missouri. The program has grown exponentially since its origin in 2011, and has since developed a full curriculum, which includes 10 lessons via PowerPoint, a workbook provided for each student, and a STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Math) activity, allowing for hands-on learning in conjunction with each weekly lesson. 

“Many educators take the farm to the school. Sometimes chickens, calves, cows, various plants, farm equipment and edible examples end up at our participating schools and in the classroom,” Melissa said. 

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A recent visit to the school found Malynne teaching fifth graders about soil layers. Since this isn’t the most exciting lesson, Malynne spiced it up by allowing the students to complete their soil booklets, and even more exciting, she led the students in making a “Soil Sundae,” which was chocolate chips for the bedrock layer, crumbled cookies representing parent material, chocolate pudding as top soil, and green sprinkles, complete with gummy worms for the final layer of organic material). 

In addition to Missouri Elementary schools, the program has been implemented in several county extensions, a handful of 4-H partnerships, and farming summer camps which, not only use the curriculum, but also allow off-site field trips to local farms and agricultural businesses. MO AG Move impacts older students interested in agriculture as well. Missouri FFA students are given the opportunity to partner with Missouri Farmers Care to teach the curriculum to students in their local districts. 

“This allows FFA members to serve as educators, gaining hands-on experiences in the classroom and advocating for agriculture in their local community,” Melissa shared. 

The experience can open the door to the selection for a high school Supervised Agriculture Experience project. Further, students who serve as educators for the program can apply for a proficiency award, making them eligible for scholarships from MO AG Moves. Summer internships are available through the program for interested college students, making this program a huge win for both the younger and older agriculturally interested audience in the state of Missouri. 

“My favorite part of the program is that Agriculture on the Move is a very solid curriculum that promotes agriculture literacy, while being aligned with Missouri Learning Standards,” Melissa said. “The hands-on STEM activities for each lesson make it fun, allowing students to explore, and providing daily life application. I also like to hear the kids get excited about agriculture.” 

She further explained that the majority of students in which the program encompasses have a varying knowledge of agriculture. Those with limited experience are provided an opportunity to gain more knowledge, while those who are familiar with agriculture based on family farms or parents’ careers are given the opportunity to expand their existing knowledge and bring new ideas to the table, further enhancing the success and growth of this pivotal learning program. Melissa is adequately qualified to represent the Agriculture on the Move program. She grew up on a dairy farm in Greene County. She earned a master’s in elementary education and taught in Willard for 15 years (she was actually an elementary school teacher to Malynne’s now- grown children during her tenure with Willard Public Schools). “This job combines both of my passions; agriculture and education,” Melissa said.


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