Passing on the Passion
With more than 200,000 students and their families in Missouri, Agriculture Education on the Move (AEOTM) continues to grow, helping bridge the gap between farming and the non-farming public. The program aims to increase an understanding of agriculture in third-grade classrooms across the state.
“AEOTM is a 10-week, interactive ag education program that focuses on bringing passionate educators into the classroom to share that important story of modern agriculture,” said Luella Gregory, AEOTM program director.
The interactive program is backed by Missouri Farmers Care (MFC), a joint effort by Missouri’s agricultural community to support Missouri agriculture. AEOTM teaches students about agricultural topics, such as crops, livestock, soil and water conservation, nutrition and agricultural careers throughout its lessons. It has grown to reach more than 100 schools in the state.
And one of the key components behind its growth is a partnership with Missouri FFA members.
“FFA is a very important component of the program, and we are proud to partner with Missouri FFA students across the state to bring programs into their local classrooms,” Gregory said. “We have regional field educators who serve our urban areas, but it is absolutely crucial in our rural communities to have our FFA chapters to help support and bring that message.”
The partnership requires a level of responsibility on the members’ part, she added.
“FFA members take on the role a regional educator would and learn the material and bring those lessons to their own peers.”
Sending FFA members into their local classrooms has benefited both the program and the students it serves.
“The benefit of having local FFA students pouring back into elementary classrooms in their area is a network that those students themselves are building,” said Ashley McCarty, MFC executive director. “Elementary students get to hear about beef production, for instance. But they also get to hear about that from someone who is producing beef in their county. It’s not an abstract idea anymore; it’s very much in context.”
FFA members are also benefitting from this partnership.
“Getting to serve as an educator with AEOTM really allows an FFA student to put into practice all of the leadership skills they learn through FFA and is an opportunity for practical application of agricultural literacy that students have learned throughout their agricultural education programs,” McCarty said.
In addition to personal growth benefits, acting as an AEOTM educator allows members the chance to give back to others in their community.
“In our eyes, it gives an FFA student the opportunity to serve but also the opportunity to pass on their passion for agriculture that has drawn them to be an FFA member in the first place,” McCarty said. “Probably the aspect of AEOTM that I love the most is that it puts our FFA leaders in a position of being mentors for elementary students.”
Connecting with older students is a valuable aspect that can brighten a third- grader’s day and makes their experience with AEOTM even more memorable, McCarty explained.
While classroom time is the largest portion of AEOTM, other ways to participate are also available.
“Outside of the classroom setting, we do a lot of professional events,” Gregory said. “If there’s ever an activity or event that an FFA chapter is doing or a student is really passionate about, we love to try to help make that happen.”
“MFC and the agricultural groups that make up MFC are exceptionally appreciative of all the partnerships we have with Missouri FFA,” McCarty added. “Getting to tap into the passion, power and energy of FFA students in AEOTM and in all the other ways we work together is such a beneficial partnership throughout all of our industry that I think only makes each segment stronger.”
Missouri FFA members can get involved with AEOTM by visiting its website, agmoves.com, or MFC’s website, mofarmerscare.com.
—By Brandelyn Martin