The conference featured 18 different workshops on a variety of topics including branding cattle, soybean production, harvesting berries, and more.

OKLAHOMA CITY – A chemistry investigation on the composition of milk, robotics in agriculture, and solving a crime in a wheat field – each of these are agricultural lessons that can be taught in classrooms everywhere.

Thanks to the 2018 Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom’s state conference “mAGnificent Oklahoma,” these lessons have been provided to nearly 340 educators from across the state.

The conference took place July 13 at the Metro Technology Center and featured 18 different workshops on a variety of topics including branding cattle, soybean production, harvesting berries, and more. Workshops were led by expert teachers who incorporate AITC in their lessons. Attendees also heard from producers, commodity leaders, Oklahoma Agritourism, the Noble Research Institute, and an FFA advisor.

“Our teachers are challenged to find new and innovative ways to make a difference in the lives of Oklahoma’s youth,” said Melody Aufill, Oklahoma AITC coordinator. “What better way to do this than by teaching them about an industry that is constantly advancing?”

AITC is a program to help educate students about where their food, clothes and shelter come from and the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. AITC is in the business of bridging the gap between producers and consumers through education.

“With the population continuing to increase exponentially and fewer people choosing an agricultural career, it is crucial for the next generation to not only pursue agriculture through potential careers, but also to be knowledgeable about how their food is produced,” Aufill said.

She added, “These teachers can inspire the next soil scientist, agronomist, cattle rancher, agricultural communicator, or technology expert who helps the industry become more efficient and effective. Regardless of students’ future career path, each one becomes an educated consumer because they have learned about agriculture in a fun and exciting way.”

Oklahoma AITC has hosted this event for the past 12 years and strives to recognize those making an impact in their schools through AITC.

Johnnie Keel, 2018 Oklahoma AITC Teacher of the Year, gave a presentation on the importance of teaching agriculture. Dana Bessinger was awarded as the 2018 Oklahoma AITC Ag Advocate, and Shirley Lettkeman was recognized for her outstanding service to Oklahoma AITC, as AITC Advisory Board president.

Teachers had the opportunity to network with agricultural vendors and commodity groups and listen to a keynote speaker, Patti Beth Anderson, who takes the role of “Willamae” on stage as she promotes agriculture by combining her rural and theatrical backgrounds.

Anderson, who is a farmer’s daughter and grew up involved in 4-H, now has a cattle ranch of her own. She has a “big, deep heart for agriculture” and says she tries to use the “gift of laughter to educate and motivate.”

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese welcomed attendees as well as Dr. Thomas Coon, Oklahoma State University Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources vice president, dean and director.

“Ag in the Classroom” is really more like “ag is our classroom,” Dr. Coon said.

Aufill added, “The goal is to equip teachers with accurate agricultural knowledge so they feel comfortable teaching students about ag whether they come from a farming background or not.”