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Talking ag literacy with Ag in the Classroom Canada’s executive director

Talking ag literacy with Ag in the Classroom Canada’s executive director

March is Canadian Agricultural Literacy Month

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

March is Canadian Agricultural Literacy Month (CALM), a whole month dedicated to celebrating agriculture in classrooms from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Agriculture in the Classroom Canada started the celebratory month in 2011. And since then, it and its 10 provincial member organizations have worked to increase ag literacy among students and provide teachers with the supporting resources.

With that at top of mind, connected with Mathieu Rouleau, who became the organization’s executive director in November 2023, about the state of ag literacy across the country and the challenges the industry faces when it comes to educating the public. How would you summarize ag literacy overall in Canada?

Mathieu Rouleau (MR): Public trust in our food systems is something that needs to be prioritized so we can have a healthy relationship with food. There’s lots of work that needs to be done as generations get further away from the farm. What are some of Ag in the Classroom’s challenges when it comes to reaching students?

MR: Responding to all of the teachers who want ag literacy activities. We’ve had to turn away teachers this month because we don’t have enough volunteers. Our requests are up but our delivery is slower.

Another challenge is showing students that careers in agriculture exist outside of being a farmer. If you look at who a farmer surrounds themselves with, whether it’s an agronomist, accountant or equipment tech, these are highly skilled individuals. And we have to show students they can work in ag in different ways.

Mathieu Rouleau Does anything stick out about why interest is up?

MR: I think one of the factors is the pandemic because we realized where our food was coming from when the supply chain was being changed. What’s your message to farmers and members of the ag community about volunteering with Ag in the Classroom Canada?

MR: Taking a minute to share why you enjoy working in agriculture, and sharing that passion with a student, can spark their interest in ag. The next you could be in that classroom. How do you make sure the materials for teachers and students are up to date?

Our approach to any of our programming is what we call “ABC – accurate, balanced and current.” We have people from the ag and education worlds review and give feedback about our content before it goes out to make sure the activities are engaging and that the students are learning the right things. Ag literacy is in the spotlight in March. What’s some of the work Ag in the Classroom does outside of March?

MR: We have a few flagship programs we’ve developed over the years. One we launched this year is having more than 200 classes participating in Mission Explorium. In the activity, kids are on a school trip and their plane crashes on a desert island. The students have to build a sustainable community through an agricultural lens.

Anyone interested in following CALM activities on social media can use the hashtag #CALM24.

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