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.
How can we help students understand the world of dairy farming? By taking them to visit a farm!
After receiving dairy farm field trip grants through the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation, several classrooms that are enrolled in the Discover Dairy program had the opportunity to visit local dairy farms this spring. During the farm tours, students learned how farmers care for their cows, conserve their natural resources, and produce dairy products that are full of nutrition.
As part of Discover Dairy’s 2019 “Adopt a Cow” program, students throughout Pennsylvania and beyond had the opportunity to gain a firsthand look inside a dairy farm. Through a partnership with the Midwest Dairy Association, more than 80 classrooms registered to participate in the program and “adopted” a cow from a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, Illinois or Minnesota.
With live video chats, photos, activity sheets, certificates, and other learning activities, the program gave students a deeper understanding of the dairy industry as they watched their cows grow throughout the school year.
Last summer, Christine Blycheck, a fourth grade teacher at Christ the Divine Teacher School outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., attended an Ag in the Classroom training series. There, she met a fellow teacher who gave her a great tip: “check-out the Discover Dairy program.” That tip led her to a dairy calf in her classroom, a dairy farm field trip and a group of students excited to learn.
“I looked through the information on Discover Dairy, and I knew right away that it would be a perfect fit for my classroom,” says Chrissy. “We are teaching in a classical education style, which is all about discovery and discussion. The Discover Dairy series fits that model. It teaches children about why agriculture is important in their lives, and it facilitates open and lively discussions.”