The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Program is offering innovative lessons to engage students outside of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CCE Livingston AITC educator Bernadette Harwood, a mother of two school age children, came up with the idea for the first lesson while thinking of ways to keep her children learning at home. Weighing heavily on her mind was the need to serve educators and the community during this difficult time, while also fulfilling obligations to the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association grant that the CCE Livingston County Ag in the Classroom Program was recently awarded.

“I am a working mom, trying to home school my children and continue to do my job … I was trying to develop something that could help our parents and educators keep students engaged in learning while sharing what our farmers are currently working on in their operations,” Harwood said. “Agriculture science is a great way to help students engage in all educational areas.”

Her first science lesson is designed for families with children in Grades K-4.

The “Farming in a Glove” kit allows students to learn some of the common crops grown in Livingston County, explore the differences in seeds, and watch them grow. The kit includes most of what families need - except cotton balls and something to hang the glove. Families will also receive a seed diagram, observation journal, directions, and additional resource links. All of the seeds included in this kit can be transplanted in your garden or eaten as sprouts.

With this science kit, students can see first-hand what the seeds look like as they grow and what they require to germinate. Students have the opportunity to follow a plant from germination to a food source; so essentially farm to fork.

The response to this first hands-on AITC lesson has been amazing. Nearly 1,500 kits have been requested from families across the county. There have also been inquiries from teachers in the surrounding area. This kit would not be possible without the support of the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association.

Locally, teachers have been supportive of the project, because it offers students an opportunity to learn something new without needing to be “connected.”

Harwood is hoping to offer additional lessons in the coming weeks. While she has several ideas, acquiring the necessary supplies has proven to be difficult with non-essential businesses being closed.

Besides offering activities by mail, Harwood is also leading virtual lessons on the FLX 4-H Learning Launchpad Facebook page. The page, developed by 4-H educators in the Finger Lakes region, offers a variety of virtual programming to families.

The Ag in the Classroom Program works with Livingston County schools to foster awareness, understanding, and appreciation of how agriculture impacts our everyday lives. The goal is to help educate students, teachers, and our community about agriculture and food systems.

For more information on the CCE Livingston County Ag in the Classroom Program, contact Bernadette Harwood at beh53@cornell.edu