Monsanto Fund Grant Provides Learning Lab and Valuable Experiences for Students in Arkansas School District

The Monsanto Plant Science Learning lab has offered endless opportunities for students in Valley View School District in Jonesboro, Ark. Last year, the district received a $25,000 grant through America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund. The award has allowed Valley View to initiate projects that offer students a broad perspective in many fields of science. From pre-kindergarten to special education to high school, each student in the district has been impacted by the grant.

“Students of all ages now have an increased awareness of agriculture and plant science, as well as a broadened understanding of career opportunities related to agriculture,” said Lee Ann Graddy, the grant coordinator for Valley View School District.

Although some projects are geared towards students based on grade level or need, many of the activities and lesson plans involve students working collaboratively, across age groups. To teach pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners more about Arkansas crops, students from the Junior High FFA developed lesson plans for them, which included a video presentation covering the plant life cycle, planting soybeans in balloons, and using soy crayons in a coloring contest.

Other activities include an introduction to FFA for fourth grade students, a tour of the greenhouse, and observation of an erosion control project, which puts wheat, soybeans, rice, and corn in a setting similar to the planting field.

“Students enjoyed the lessons, along with the opportunity to see what the FFA and agriculture departments have to offer when they enter junior high school,” said Graddy. At the Junior High, students developed experimental projects for the spring Agri-Science fair held at the University of Arkansas, focusing on erosion control and hydroponic growing of tomatoes.

The Senior High school students are involved in the selection of plants for the Community Garden project, which is in its second year of operation. Graddy is excited about the garden, which has been expanded due to the funding received. “The grant is allowing the selection and planting of additional varieties of vegetables which will be incubated in the green house then transplanted to the garden site later this spring,” she said.

Because of the grant, high school students will have the chance to gain hands-on experience through new partnerships with local farmers, including test plots near the school’s agriculture department. These plots will be used for the study and observation of planting practices, fertilizer application, irrigation practices, and insect control.

“Had we not received this grant, the opportunities we see unfolding for our students to gain hands-on experiences in the areas of plant science would not have evolved,” said Graddy. “We look forward to seeing where these partnerships will lead our students in their areas of study, as we challenge our own thinking and approaches to instruction, and continue to grow.”

Now in its third year, the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, is gearing up to help rural school districts by investing over $2.3 million to strengthen math and science education. Between now and April 6, 2014, farmers have the opportunity to nominate their local public school district to compete for a grant of either $10,000 or $25,000. Administrators from nominated school districts can then submit grant applications for either amount, through April 21, 2014 to enhance their math and/or science programs.

For more information about the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program and to view the official rules, a list of eligible states, counties and CRDs, visit www.GrowRuralEducation.com.