In 2015, conservation districts educated 100,000 students statewide about agriculture, farming, wildlife, and (of course) conservation! Alabama is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and natural beauty. Conservation districts offer a number of educational programs to show students how to be good stewards of our natural resources so future generations can enjoy the same Alabama the Beautiful we know and love. Contact your district administrative coordinator if you’d like to bring an educational program to your school or group, and be sure to check out what’s available on the state level too.
Students K-12 create and write submissions for our yearly poster and essay contest sponsored by the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) and National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD). Participation is recruited within each district. Entries are judged on a regional level, then advance to the state Soil and Water Conservation Committee office, where a panel of judges selects state winners to submit to NACD. Winners are eligible for a cash prize! NACD chooses a different topic each year relating to conservation education. The contest is a great way for students to enjoy healthy competition while learning about conservation. Contact your local conservation district to enter.
Sammy Soil and Ruby Raindrop are conservation icons! Originally created by a conservation district in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the lovable cartoon characters have caught the attention of thousands of children for more than 40 years. Sammy Soil and Ruby Raindrop teach kids why healthy soil and clean water are important. You might see them out and about, or contact Alabama NRCS or your local conservation district to invite Sammy Soil and Ruby Raindrop to your school or function.
Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) is an interdisciplinary educational program that promotes ag literacy for students in all grade levels for the purpose of making students aware of the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. SWCC collaborates with several stakeholders in ag education, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, Department of Agriculture and Industries, Cooperative Extension System, and FFA to develop readymade curriculum and learning tools for teachers to use in their classrooms. Most materials are available online. Additionally, AITC sponsors an annual Summer Institute for K6 teachers. Participants tour local farms and attend sessions to learn about innovative materials and teaching strategies that increase student knowledge of the nutritional and economic importance of the food and fiber systems in their daily lives.
SWCC supports and serves on the Alabama FarmCity Committee. Farm-City seeks to bridge the disconnect between food, fiber, and forest products and where they come from. For example, the cotton Tshirt you wear may have been produced from cotton grown right here in Alabama. Or the chicken you serve on your dinner table may have been raised in North Alabama. Working with our partners in agriculture, business, and education, we coordinate a yearly Farm-City Week to deepen the understanding of the relationship between rural farmers and urban workers. FarmCity Week is traditionally held during the week of Thanksgiving.
Nature is the classroom for the Alabama Envirothon! The Envirothon is an annual competition where students demonstrate their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. Teams are made up of five high school–aged students. They are tested on their knowledge of soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, and wildlife and must make a 20minute presentation regarding a current environmental issue. Led by a volunteer advisor, teams usually meet from late autumn until spring to prepare for the competition. You can sign up to participate by contacting your local conservation district or school.
Locally coordinated water festivals present unique opportunities to educate third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students about local water issues and the environment. The event helps students understand the relationship and dependency we have with water and how they can protect water supplies. Water festivals are provided at no cost to schools. Hosting an event of this magnitude is made possible by many generous sponsors, presenters, and dedicated volunteers. Throughout the day, students participate in hands-on activities and presentations led by water and natural resource experts from local, state, and national organizations, as well as trained volunteers. The activities focus on a variety of topics, including drinking water, groundwater, watersheds, surface water, water quality, and conservation. Explore to see if a water festival is held near you. (link to find your district page)
Forestry Awareness Week Now is an educational program established as an outdoor classroom for students in grades 4-6. The instructors, who are resource professionals and timber producers, provide the lessons. The lessons include but are not limited to forest management, soils, environmental history, wildlife management,  tree identification, and forest products. The event is held for two to three days to accommodate all the schools in each area.
Many in agriculture know someone whose life has been affected by a farm-related injury or death. The statistics are sobering. Even more tragic is that these incidents could have been prevented with a few simple safety precautions. That’s why the Progressive Agriculture Foundation® is on a crusade to bring safety and health information to the farming communities who desperately need it. At the heart of this effort is the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program. This educational program provides training and resources for local communities to conduct one-day safety and health programs. Safety Days are designed to be age appropriate, hands-on, fun, and safe for children. The mission of the Progressive Agriculture Safety Days is simple — to provide education and training to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.
A 26-foot learning lab on wheels, the Ag in Action trailer is a powerful and effective way to teach kids where their food and fiber come from. The Ag in Action lab is very impressive and catches the eye. It is covered inside and out with almost lifelike photos of cattle, poultry, crops, trees, and other scenes of agriculture taken at local farms and lands. Inside is an “ag simulator,” a converted cotton picker cab, where students can imagine being a farmer and harvesting cotton, corn, and soybean crops through audio visuals. Four computer learning stations inside give students the opportunity to learn the importance of farming using touchscreen technology. Outside, mounted on the back of the trailer, is a large-screen TV that creates another learning station, giving students virtual visits to local farms and agricultural-related venues. Additional learning stations such as the Eviroscape, a miniature cotton gin, and a milking cow can be added outside around the lab to keep multiple groups of students involved at one time. Contact your local conservation district to discover if the Ag in Action trailer is available in your area.