|History of AITC|
Following a meeting of existing Ag. In the Classroom (AITC) groups in Edmonton two years before, a group of interested Saskatchewan individuals and organizations got together in January, 1992, and decided to work towards forming Agriculture in the Classroom (Sask.). In the fall of 1992, Saskatchewan Education published its Reference Committee Report which led to the integration of agricultural concepts among and across the various Kindergarten to Grade 12 curricula.
The AITC organizing group wanted to confirm its belief that the proposed AITC was something that teachers needed and would use. Consequently, two teacher focus groups, funded by the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists were held in the summer of 1993. Teachers enthusiastically agreed that they wanted the kind of program being proposed, but only if AITC made it easy for teachers to make the "connections" and incorporate the material into existing curricula. Because of all the other classroom demands on teachers, they did not have time to do a lot of extra research or develop additional lesson plans.
The AITC organizing committee began fund-raising in the fall of 1993. The objective was to garner enough core funding for an initial three-year period, during which a half-time Executive Director would be hired and linkages with the agriculture industry would be developed. Fund-raising efforts were successful and Agriculture in the Classroom (Sask) Inc. was incorporated under the Non-Profit Act in June, 1994.
After Incorporation the initial, three-year sponsors of AITC (Sask) were: United Grain Growers, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, and Dairy Producers' Coop. In addition, Saskatchewan Education gave in-kind support via a curriculum staff person. Sask. Agriculture & Food assisted the new organization by naming a staff person and by providing office space and equipment in the Saskatoon Rural Service Centre. Representatives of these five corporate or government organizations, plus two interested individuals, formed the first Board of Directors.
In 1994, the first year of the development phase, AITC focused on building and strengthening contacts within the agricultural community. In the second year, a collection of existing curriculum-relevant materials was gathered into a Resource File and distributed to teachers. More funding from industry and contact with teachers were the themes for the third year.
Prior to the initial three-year core funding ending, AITC hired a consultant in mid-1997 to generate memberships and replacement revenue for the organization. Many potential ag industry supporters, when approached during the previous three years, had adopted a "wait and see" position. By 1997, several supporters were anxious to be involved in project-specific programs but not core funding. Without the assurance that the staff position would be funded, AITC was reluctant to take on projects ... even though many partners were available. The Board of Directors approached Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) and eventually received $50,000 in 1998. In the years since 1998, SAF's financial support for core staff positions has enabled AITC to take on a great many projects with numerous partners.
In 2000, the Executive Director took over the major responsibility for fund-raising. This change in focus necessitated the hiring of a full-time office and project manager (February, 2001). Also in 2001, the Board of Directors expanded to 11 members with a majority being representatives of Saskatchewan's agriculture industry. AITC became involved in producing educational resources for teachers. Recognizing the importance and value of teacher input, AITC organized several summer writing workshops for teachers from 1996 - 2001. The participating teachers created the Agriculture Study Series which covers a variety of topics including: Food Safety, Crop Protection, Prairie Grasslands and Biotechnology, Animal Agriculture, Plant Agriculture, Biotechnology, Value-added Crops, Horticulture, Nutraceuticals, Livestock, Living Soil, The Changing Face of Agriculture, Genetically-modified Organisms, and Water is Life.
From the outset, it was agreed that any materials produced by AITC would contain a "balanced bias". Materials would be "biased" in favor of agriculture but "balanced" in their approach; no one sector or product or issue would be favored or discredited. AITC continues to produce educational resources and are looking forward to the launch of a new Agriculture Education Package for grade 4 students.
1996 was the beginning of the Ag Ambassador Program, an organized network of teacher contacts within the province's schools. AITC directs agriculture-related resources to the Ag Ambassadors and through them, the resources can be shared with other staff in the school. Presently, AITC has a network of over 400 Ag Ambassadors and continues to develop and utilize this valuable resource.
From 2001 - 2005, Agriculture in the Classroom expanded its partnerships and programs. AITC became a key player in the Career Expo and Agri-Ed Showcase held during agribition as well as the classroom programs offered by the Saskatoon Exhibition during their major events such as the Livestock Expo. AITC has been successful in reaching students and teachers across the province through its newsletter, teacher resources, presentations at conferences, schools and community events, website.
In 2006 Sara Shymko was hired to be the Executive Director. Since that time there has been a renewed focus in ensuring all programs and resources we provide have solid links to the Saskatchewan curricula. In 2007, the Little Green Thumbs indoor garden project started in four schools. The program has blossomed and in 2010 we will have 48 schools across the province growing veggies right in their classroom. Partnerships are increasingly important to AITC and currently we co-manage the AG Experience with Prairieland Park Corporation and the Biotech Outreach Day with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. In addition to this, AITC participates in many other outreach activities such as the Yorkton Harvest Showdown, PA Agri-Ed event, and Farm Safety Fairs.
With support from the Agriculture industry, AITC-SK is determined to become the organization Saskatchewan teachers look to in their efforts to educate students about the role agriculture plays in food production, health care, renewable resources, economic development, and environmental stewardship.