Teachers interested in starting a school garden or helping students learn about a chicken’s life cycle could benefit from educator grants from Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC).
To help educate youth on the source of their food and fibers and the importance of agriculture in daily life, AITC is offering grants for K-12 educators who incorporate agricultural concepts and experiences in their classrooms.
Virginia AITC has over $30,000 available for the 2021-22 school year to support classroom agricultural experiences. Teachers and other organizations like 4-H clubs and FFA chapters that work with schools and parent-teacher associations can apply for up to $500 for agriculture-related initiatives.
“The grants paid for the majority of our raised-bed projects,” said Deborra Horowitz, a Southampton Middle School agriculture teacher.
Horowitz previously received two AITC grants for projects at her school. The first grant funded the materials for raised-bed gardens, which the students built and filled with topsoil and compost mix and then planted. The second grant funded installation parts for an irrigation system, which students assembled. Cold frames were purchased, assembled and installed by students, allowing them to grow off-season produce.
Horowitz used the projects to teach students how to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. In addition, the nearby high school’s culinary arts students were able to use some of the freshly-grown produce for their classes, and excess produce was donated to a local food bank.
“Students learned about square-foot gardening and were amazed to see what could be produced,” Horowitz said. “This year, they learned how to grow garlic, which none of the students had ever done. Students loved braiding the garlic and hanging it in the chicken coop to cure.”
The deadline for grant applications is Oct. 15; however, applications received by Aug. 20 will be eligible for AITC’s new “early bird notification.” This early notification allows educators to begin their projects in time for schools’ openings.
“As a number of schools return to in-person learning beginning in early August, educators are eager to start the year with a hands-on project,” said Tammy Maxey, Virginia AITC programs director. “Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom is encouraging educators to start the year with agriculture and is providing the funding to increase school and program opportunities.”
Projects may occur at school or virtually, addressing topics like gardening and horticulture, nutrition, embryology, and STEM themes that provide unique agriculture experiences.
To learn more about educational activities available through Virginia AITC, or to apply for a grant, visit va.agclassroom.org.