TIFTON –From pre-kindergarten through second grade, a total of 6,359 students from four different counties in South Georgia received a first-hand look at where their food, fiber, and shelter originate in the second year of the popular Destination Ag program at the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Georgia Museum of Agriculture.
“It is vitally important to engage students with the importance of agriculture and natural resources at an early age,” Museum Director Garrett Boone said. “We, along with our partners, are working hard to provide opportunities to increase the awareness on the critical role that agriculture and natural resources play in our everyday lives – from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the house we live in.”
Boone said the 2017-18 total headcount represented an increase of 2,390 students from the initial year of the program. Destination Ag added programming for students in pre-k through second grade from Berrien County this year to accompany students in the same grade levels from Tift, Cook, and Colquitt counties. Each student received a hands-on experience with agriculture, Georgia’s number one industry.
Thanks to an initial gift of $250,000 from the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation to the ABAC Foundation, Destination Ag opened its doors to pre-k through first grade students in Tift, Colquitt, and Cook counties in September 2016. On June 5, 2017, the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation committed $1 million over the next four years to continue the program.
“This support by the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation has made it possible for us to invest in the lives of these students who will one day be the agriculture leaders of this state,” ABAC President David Bridges said. “This
program connects agriculture and natural resources to a child’s everyday life.”
Boone said a barn and an array of learning stations were constructed for Destination Ag during the summer of 2017 thanks to support from Weyerhaeuser. The barn houses Destination Ag animals and displays multiple exhibits. The learning stations provide shade and shelter for students as they immerse themselves in the Destination Ag curriculum.
Two new Destination Ag partners made contributions to the program by donating two fiberglass cows, Buttercup and Chuck. Buttercup, an interactive dairy cow sponsored by The Dairy Alliance, allows pre-k
students to see where their milk comes from as they participate in “milking” her. Chuck, a beef cow sponsored by The Georgia Beef Board and Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, connects visitors to the origins of the various cuts of beef they might purchase in the grocery store.
The Destination Ag playground and immersive free-play area was also a new addition. Children can now climb on the wooden tractor and trailer, donated by Lasseter Equipment Group, and pretend to be bees in their own
Thanks to the U.S. Poultry Foundation, Destination Ag incorporated four chickens and a new chicken coop into its lessons for kindergarten students this year. Destination Ag has plans to include additional animals in the coming years.
“We spent the first year creating, implementing, and establishing the basis of a strong foundation for Destination Ag,” Boone said. “In year two we further solidified that foundation, fine-tuning our processes and
procedures. We are intent on making Destination Ag the premier ag literacy program in the country.”
Throughout the year, Destination Ag participated in outreach programs to share the importance of agricultural and natural resources at schools in local communities. Nearly 700 sixth graders were impacted by Destination
Ag’s weather and erosion program at J.T. Reddick Middle School in Tift County. Destination Ag staff members delivered ag literacy into Annie Belle Clark Primary and Norman Park Elementary by reading various
agriculture-based books to the students.
Destination Ag and the Georgia Farm Bureau partnered to pilot a statewide outreach program in the form of traveling trunks. “All About Trees” was the focus for the 10 pilot trunks distributed to different regions throughout the state to be utilized by teachers in their schools. Destination Ag was also presented at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, “A Day in the Woods,” and the Georgia National Fair.
“The response that we have seen has been overwhelmingly positive to the hands-on, interactive nature of each lesson plan,” Boone said. “So far the data from our evaluations show that 99 percent of teachers surveyed said
that Destination Ag made further connections between ag and natural resources in their students’ daily lives.”
Boone said the Destination Ag staff is working diligently over the next few months preparing for the third year of the program. The curriculum will expand to third grade and student in pre-k thru third grade from Irwin
County will participate in year three along with students already attending from Tift, Colquitt, Cook, and Berrien counties.
“By 2020 we hope the program will reach over 17,000 students annually in pre-k through fifth grade in Tift and seven surrounding counties,” Boone said. “There is a realized disconnect between today’s younger generation
and the origins of their food, fiber, and shelter.”