Middle School Students Discover the Impact Dairy Makes on Their Community

With consumers becoming more interested in shopping locally, Mary Myers, a middle school teacher from Keystone SMILES Crossroads CLC, wanted her students to understand the role agriculture, and dairy farming, play in this consumer trend.

“I wanted to include a unit on Pennsylvania agriculture in my junior-high social studies class, and I decided dairy would be the best choice. There are dairy farms in the area that provide jobs to the community, and many of my students will be looking for work right after high school,” Mary said.

As she searched for lessons that could help her bring dairy farming into the classroom, she found the Discover Dairy lesson series—an interactive, cross-curricular, multi-level program managed by the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania.

Designed for elementary and middle school students, the Discover Dairy program immediately interested her class. While many of her students grew up in areas surrounding dairy farms, Mary found they knew very little about the industry at the start of the unit. This opened the door for meaningful lessons and important conversations, specifically surrounding the environment and the local community.

“As soon as we finished the first lesson in the program, I could see the students were really responding to the information and activities,” Mary shared. “One of the lessons they most enjoyed was ‘In the Environment.’ Knowing farmers respect and want to preserve the environment was important to them.  They also enjoyed the ‘In the Community’ lesson. This lesson was truly an eye-opener for students when they realized how important it is to shop locally and support jobs in their hometowns.”

Along with making personal connections, the Discover Dairy lesson series gave students the chance to apply scientific concepts to real-life scenarios on the farm. Through interactive labs that complemented each lesson and reinforced specific concepts, students also benefited from hands-on learning opportunities.

“My favorite thing about the Discover Dairy lessons are the complimentary labs,” Mary said. “I use a lot of hands-on learning, and the labs lend themselves to my style of teaching. They were extremely useful for engaging students.”

During the culminating project for the Discover Dairy unit, Mary divided her students into groups and asked them to create a Pennsylvania dairy advertising campaign. After choosing a dairy product to promote on television, radio, print or social media, the students were able to get creative and develop scripts, backgrounds, photos and other content to showcase their dairy products.

“In the end, students created a billboard for yogurt, a TV commercial for ice cream, and a print ad for a dairy-based energy drink,” Mary explained. “The campaigns all advertised Pennsylvania dairy as the main ingredient for their product. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the project.”

In addition to social studies, Mary has incorporated the Discover Dairy lessons into her English classes, pairing learning objectives and projects throughout the unit. For Mary’s students, what began as an initial interest in dairy blossomed into a deeper understanding of Pennsylvania agriculture and their role as consumers.

To learn more about the Discover Dairy lesson series and the free curriculum available to teachers, visit our website or call (717) 346-0849.