TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Urban Schools Grant Program
If the students in your classroom were asked where hamburger meat, milk, carrots, ham, bread or cereal come from, how would they answer? Would they know that all food comes from farms and ranches or would they answer, “the grocery store!”?
Agriculture is defined as the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock, and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products. The Urban Schools Grant Program is designed to foster an understanding and awareness of agriculture in public urban elementary and middle schools in districts with populations of 45,000 or more. Projects are limited only to the extent of an applicant’s imagination. A total amount of up to $2,500 may be awarded to an eligible school in a single grant cycle.
- School gardens (vegetable, salsa, pizza, etc.)
- Classroom projects (herb gardens, hatchery, etc.)
- Field trips (Livestock shows, Farmers’ Markets, farms and ranches)
- Guest speakers
- After school projects
You don’t have to do this alone!
Several past projects have teamed up with community organizations to help make their projects a lasting success. You may want to consider working with a local group or business.
- Master Gardeners
- Farm Bureau
- Boys or Girls Clubs
- Eagle Scouts
Many teachers have taken the opportunity to use the Urban School Grant Program to teach TEKS in new, exciting and hands-on ways. The following list is not exhaustive, but rather an assimilation of general ideas that you may tailor to your needs or merely use as a starting point for your own unique ideas.
- School Gardens and Land Management – Students could use a piece of district-owned property on which to plant and maintain a garden. They could include “test” areas to measure the effects of proper land management, drainage, drought, etc. on their produce. Based upon the size and output of the garden, the students could serve the “fruits of their labors” at a school function, as part of a cafeteria meal or donate it to a food bank or other community outlet. If the students elect to do a horticulture project, they could share the plants and flowers with shut-ins, nursing homes, or volunteer organizations. In addition, they could use them for a school ceremony or special recognition.
- Animal Care – Students could select a livestock project, and become responsible for that animal(s)’ care, round the clock. This includes duty schedules during weekends and holidays, identifying costs and budget, record maintenance, and preparing the animal(s) for a livestock show or similar forum. As part of the project, they could prepare photographs, video, etc. that focus on the project and lessons learned. The documentation could include visits to farms and ranches to review the scope of large operations and to find lessons that apply to the school project.
- Agriculture and the Environment – Students can get permission to work on a piece of property in or around their school where soil quality, drainage, topsoil or pollution and litter problems exist. They can arrange a planting project (food, shrubs, etc.) that will mitigate or improve the existing problem to help make the land productive again. They can study the impact of poor land management, urbanization and pollution, and then suggest improvements.
- Texas Products – Using resources such as Go Texan and commodity group data, students can study the school cafeteria menu to identify Texas agriculture products. They can do the same at area restaurants. The students then can work with the lunchroom and restaurants to use photography, articles and videos for artistic and informative lobby displays about the products and their Texas sources.
- Exploring Aquaculture – An often-overlooked aspect of agriculture is the fish and shellfish industry. Students can develop a project to raise fish, study the nutrient requirements of water for various species, learn about pollution and water quality and study the differences among freshwater and saltwater species. The research could include visits to Aquaculture centers and seafood restaurants to focus on the industry. As part of the project, they could prepare photographs and educational materials that focus on Aquaculture. They could present this to young students through assemblies or by allowing the primary and pre-school students to visit the classroom for a “meet the fish day.”
For more information about the grant – and to apply visit the TDA website. Deadline to apply is May 13, 2011.