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New mini-grant to help Florida teachers use school gardens for education

Florida Ag in the Classroom – August 18, 2011

GAINESVILLE – Florida Agriculture in the Classroom will offer a new grants program to help educate Florida’s students about the importance of agriculture. The program will provide 222 $500 mini-grants that must go toward creating or improving a school garden that grows Florida fruits and vegetables.

Certified, general education Florida teachers and agriscience teachers engaged in classroom instruction at the pre-kindergarten through 12th grade level are eligible. The grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Proposals can be submitted through the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom website (www.flagintheclassroom.com) beginning Sept. 1 until the grant funds are depleted. More information will be available online Sept. 1.

Teachers who receive the grant will receive a copy of Florida Agriculture in the Classroom’s new resource, Gardening for Grades. The full-color, 142-page book was written for educators and shows teachers the entire process of starting and maintaining a classroom or schoolyard garden. The book begins with the planning stages of a garden, such as how to secure support from school administrators to use school property and how to find grant funding to pay for supplies. The book then helps teachers decide what types of fruits or vegetables to plant depending on their location, and it includes guidance on using the garden to teach core subject areas. There are a dozen lessons and activities in the book that show teachers how to use the
garden to teach language arts, math, science and social studies concepts.

Florida Agriculture in the Classroom chairwoman Jennifer Whittaker Sills said the book is a unique resource that is needed as more teachers plant school gardens.

“This book will give educators valuable information that will help them make the most of their school gardens,” she said. “This book shows teachers that agriculture can be used to teach all subject areas.”

According to the National Gardening Association, student participation in school gardens improves their standardized test scores. The organization found that students in third and fifth grade who learned science through gardening scored higher than classrooms that did not use a garden.

Participating in gardening also improves students’ health and dietary choices, according to the St. Louis University Obesity Prevention Center.

Gardening for Grades will be offered free to Florida teachers, thanks to a partnership with the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools and Food & Nutrition Management Section. Teachers can order the book from the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom website.

Grant funding for the project also comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, among others. Florida Agriculture in the Classroom’s primary source of funding is from sales of the specialty license plate known as the “Ag Tag.” Ag Tag money is being used for this project as well.

Workshops will be held throughout the state in the fall of 2011 to train teachers on how to use the book.

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Florida Agriculture in the Classroom is a non-profit organization based in Gainesville and charged with helping teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to educate students about the Florida agriculture industry. The group receives funding from sales of the agriculture specialty license plate called the “Ag Tag.”

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For more information on this press release, contact Florida Agriculture in the Classroom Executive Director Lisa Gaskalla at 352-846-1391 or via e-mail at Gaskalla@ufl.edu For more information on Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, visit: www.agtag.org

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