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Bringing the Ranch to the Classroom

Teachers play an influential role in shaping students’ views and perspectives. Beyond imparting academic knowledge, they serve as mentors, role models and guides, fostering a deeper understanding of the world’s complexities. Among those complexities is the topic of beef production.

By connecting with the young minds of schoolchildren through their teachers, the Beef Checkoff engages with tomorrow’s beef consumers today. The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, engages with teachers across the country to integrate beef curriculum into their lesson plans in multiple ways, like free resources and lesson plans, virtual workshops and so much more. One resource that teachers cite as their favorite is the On The Farm STEM program featuring in-person teacher farm and ranch tours.

Each On The Farm STEM tour is an annual immersive professional development experience that partners food and agriculture with science education. A team of former science educators and Next Generation Science Standards facilitators expose attendees to beef production through the lens of science.

For this year’s event, 29 teachers and school administrators from across the country, from both rural and urban school districts, traveled to Denver, Colorado, in June for the three-day On The Farm event hosted by the Colorado Beef Council. These teachers serve a student population of more than 70,000 students. Participants visited with experts from across the cattle industry to better understand how to integrate animal agriculture into their STEM classrooms back home.

Specifically, day one included learning about elements of cattle feed. Attendees also began developing their own lesson plans centered around the involvement of STEM in the beef cattle life cycle. On day two, attendees toured AgNext at Colorado State University, a research leader in animal and ecosystem health, where they learned about methane measurement and how researchers observe and research cannulated cows.

For Jerry Citron, a biology and AP environment science high school teacher from New York City, this event is all about helping his students gain a perspective of the world. “The actual science behind where food comes from; the social, economic and political implications is foreign to urban students,” Citron said. “That’s why I’m here, to learn a lot, provide perspective, and teach my subject with much more relevance and authenticity.”

In addition to the in-person tours, this program included two pre-tour webinars that led up to the multi-day, in-the-field, immersive experience, one post-tour webinar and a structured professional development community. The webinars included:

  • Relevance, Authenticity, and Identity in Science Education
  • Exploring Agricultural Phenomena and Problems
  • Sense-Making and Problem-Solving to Drive Learning

Through these well-rounded, immersive programs, the Beef Checkoff empowers educators with the knowledge and tools to effectively introduce students to beef production and the care and commitment beef producers dedicate to their herds. By fostering a deep appreciation for agriculture and its interconnectedness with science, these initiatives play a vital role in cultivating informed and responsible future consumers.


The Evolution of the On The Farm Program

2015 – 2016

  • Two new resources

2016 – 2017

  • Children’s book authors participation
  • Three in-person events
  • Two new resources

2017 – 2018

  • Science teachers participation
  • Three in-person events
  • One new teacher resource

2018 – 2019

  • Three events for teachers
  • Two new nationwide resources

2019 – 2020

  • One new classroom pilot program
  • One virtual event
  • Two livestream events

2020 – 2021

  • One in-person event
  • Two livestream events
  • Seven webinars
  • One national conference
  • Three new resources

2021 – 2022

  • One in-person event
  • Eight webinars
  • Two livestream events
  • One national conference

2022 – 2023

  • One in-person event
  • Three state implementation pilots
  • One resource pilot
  • Three new resources
  • Eight webinars
  • Two livestream events
  • Two conferences

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