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AGRICULTURE TAKES UP TEACHING
It's letters like these that let the employees and volunteers at the CropLife Ambassador Network (CAN) know their message is getting through. Each year CAN, which is sponsored by the Mid America CropLife Association, St. Louis, sends hundreds of agriculture professionals into elementary schools to show students another way of life and explain the basics of agriculture.

Volunteers come from all walks of agriculture; the pool of more than 300 people includes crop consultants, research scientists, marketing professionals, ag retailers, agronomy sales representatives and professors. CAN has recruited participants from many of the largest companies in agriculture, such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences and BASF.

Membership in the CropLife Ambassador Network is free, and in return, volunteers are asked to commit to at least one presentation per year. "We notify members of activities in their area, and they can choose to volunteer as time permits," says Tracie Jones, program coordinator for CAN.

"Our goal is to provide scientifically-based, accurate information to the public regarding the safety and value of American agricultural food production," Jones explains. Current topics for presentations include biotechnology, careers in crop protection, water quality, food safety, and agriculture and the environment; new presentations are continually being developed to offer more choices to teachers. And most importantly, the programs are designed to be entertaining as well as informative, showing students that science and agriculture can be fun.

"My class talked about it all day; they were very receptive," says Brody Griffith, a fifth grade teacher at Centerburg Elementary, Centerburg, Ohio.

The presentations are targeted at grades four and up and last approximately 45 minutes. Each volunteer is provided with all the necessary materials, and volunteers can log in to the CAN Web site to download PowerPoint presentations or read speaking tips and activity ideas. The presentations are then offered free of charge to teachers.

Francis Vahikamp of St. Clair Service Company speaks to a group of third graders in Chicago. CAN presentations by agriculture professionals are provided upon request to teachers for no charge.
Students and teachers come away from the presentations with a better knowledge of agriculture and the science behind it, a topic that doesn't always make it into lesson plans. For example, one presentation describes and shows the new technology of farming - including equipment, crop protection processes and biotechnology - all issues that people outside the agricultural industry rarely hear about.

Besides the educational materials, one of the biggest benefits for many is the opportunity to be exposed to careers in agriculture - a career path that fewer and fewer are choosing. "It is valuable for them to see and hear what adults do for a living, other than the teachers and police that they see every day," says Karrie Merriweather, a fifth grade teacher at Hoover Elementary, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The benefits for the presenters can be just as important. "When I give these presentations, I feel that I am contributing to the industry that has supported me for many years," says Bill Randell, a CAN volunteer from Monsanto, St. Louis. "It has really broadened my job fulfillment."

One goal of the program is to provide students with positive messages about agriculture from the people who are shaping the industry. "By giving these presentations, you can learn what kinds of questions these students have and their misconceptions about agriculture, which has probably been influenced by society," says Sarah Taylor-Lowell of Dow AgroSciences.

The Mid America CropLife Associationreceives hundreds of teacher requests each year. But even with the 300 active volunteers, many requests go unfilled. "We're always looking for more volunteers; it's a great way to get employees involved," Jones says.

Visit http://ambassador.macpa.com to learn more about the program, sign up as a volunteer or request a presentation, or contact Tracie Jones at 314/849-9446. AM


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