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Oregon Dept. of Agriculture's "Story of the Week."
Oregon's Ag in the Classroom program produces new history book for new school year
New book helps students "Get Oregonized"

August 31, 2005... As primary grade school students head back to class this next week, many can look forward to a new, exciting history book that will help them understand and appreciate Oregon's agricultural roots as well as its people and natural resources. Get Oregonized is a hard bound, 301-page book now available to teachers and students throughout the state as part of a larger effort by the Oregon chapter of Ag in the Classroom (AITC)– a non-profit educational foundation– to teach tomorrow's citizens about today's natural resource industries so important to the Oregon economy and way of life.

"The book is available to anyone interested in learning about our state's rich history and natural resources," says Oregon AITC executive director Tami Kerr. "But it was written specifically for students in grades three and four as they study regions of the state and the history of Oregon."

The book includes maps, illustrations, and historical photographs to go along with text. Originally a joint project of Oregon State University and Western Oregon University schools of education, the book has been revised to reflect a regional approach to the history, agriculture, and other natural resources of the state. Teachers themselves have helped author the various sections of the book and have put it in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand format.

"No two pages side by side are just text," says Kerr. "We have made use of graphics to make the chapters even more appealing."

Classroom sets of Get Oregonized and individual copies can be purchased through the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. Order forms are available online at http://aitc.oregonstate.edu/. Single copies of the text book are available at $20 each (plus a $5 shipping and handling charge) with boxes of eight available at $18 each (plus a $10 shipping and handling charge). Teachers guides are also available to help augment the use of the book in the classroom.

"We haven't done a lot of advertising to date because the book was just printed at the end of this past school year," says Kerr. "But several teachers have reviewed it and most of them have purchased books for their school. Word of mouth is creating excitement about the book."

The book is organized into two sections: Oregon's history and Oregon's geographic regions. The first section highlights various Native American tribes and the arrival of white people. A chapter is dedicated to Lewis and Clark as well as the fur trapping trade that helped attract people to Oregon. Another chapter focuses on the pioneers who made their way west. The final chapter in the section deals with statehood from Oregon's territory days to the present. The second section is where agriculture is most evident. From cranberries on the southern Oregon Coast to grass seed in the Willamette Valley, and from wheat in the Columbia Plateau to ranching in Oregon's high desert, Get Oregonized captures a great deal of the state's agricultural diversity. All in all, the book is helping to expand the AITC program in Oregon.

"We have a lot of kits, videos, and lessons to offer teachers and students," says Kerr. "Many of these things have been developed on a national level or from other states. All have been very well received. But this is only the second Oregon-specific project that we've developed. This is something we think will stay in the classrooms and be used for many, many years."

A national effort founded more than 20 years ago, Ag in the Classroom was originated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oregon's chapter has grown tremendously in recent years. The number of students reached by the program has climbed from 3,000 in 1999-2000 to more than 34,000 students this past school year. Last year's total is a 23 percent increase over the 2003-04 school year. AITC in Oregon has developed some material for the upper grades, but remains focused primarily on kindergarten through sixth grade. Working with OSU's 4-H Extension program, AITC has developed a 26-lesson curriculum based on Oregon's natural resources for fourth and fifth graders in Oregon that meets the state's benchmark for fifth grade.

"The purpose of Ag in the Classroom remains helping young people gain a better understanding of agriculture– the source of our food and fiber– and its impact on our economy and daily lives," says Kerr. "Our goal is to provide the curriculum and reference materials into the classroom so teachers can use agriculture to teach English, math, science, and social sciences. The biology and hands-on nature of agriculture lends itself to teaching many subject areas in a way that intrigues kids."

Ag in the Classroom also has a strong presence in such events as Ag Fest, held annually at the State Fairgrounds in April, where the interface between city kids and the farm is strong. AITC is involved in other activities designed to get young students interested in learning more about agriculture. An annual calendar contest in which students from public, private, and home schools submit artwork depicting Oregon agriculture has been a huge success. Selected entries are published in a calendar that is available for purchase. This past year, 2,050 students participated in the calendar contest– the highest number yet.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is an enthusiastic supporter of Ag in the Classroom.

"Two or three generations ago, it probably didn't seem necessary to create a program to teach kids about the importance of agriculture as most of them lived on the farm," says ODA's Brent Searle, special assistant to the director and AITC president. "That's not true anymore and it's all the more reason why we need a program like Ag in the Classroom. The program is making a difference for many students. We believe its activities and resources, including the new book Get Oregonized, will help Oregon's young people know and appreciate agriculture now and in the future."

For more information about AITC, visit http://aitc.oregonstate.edu/ or contact Tami Kerr at (541) 737-8629.




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