Agriculture in the modern classroom

Paula Campbell, Communications and Events Coordinator | Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

A student in the urban metro does not wake up each morning with opportunities to sit in a tractor, tend to livestock or walk through the fields where their food is produced. A field trip to Aggie Days allows urban students learn where their food comes from and how it is sustainably grown in our province.

Established 36 years ago by the Calgary Stampede, Aggie Days offers interactive agriculture experiences including livestock viewing, activity booths and rodeo events. This year the event had about 18,000 attendees made up of students, teachers, parents and families wanting to learn more about agriculture.

While the commissions have attended Aggie Days and Stampede in the past, 2023 marks the return of Wally and Betty’s Grain Gallery with an updated mobile application to capitalize on educating the children in attendance. With the modern-day use of tablets and augmented reality technology in the classroom, Wally Wheat and Betty Barley lead students through a game that educates them on commodity production. Combined with an eye-catching booth and sensory bins full of grain, it does not take long for a line of curious kids to curl around the booth with excitement.

In Wally and Betty’s Grain Gallery game, students choose to learn about wheat or barley. For each crop, the game educates players on how it is grown and harvested. In the wheat game, users mill the grain and then create a pizza with the flour. In the barley game, users learn how barley is used as feed and digested by cattle.

Throughout these events, commission staff interact with students and parents and answer a wide variety of inquiries. Many of these inquiries pertain to the differences between wheat, barley, and unique varieties and their uses. A dynamic mix of industry professionals, producers and students attending these events creates an environment that merges student learning, industry information, and first-hand farm knowledge to create a lasting memory for children and educators alike.

Changes to the Alberta curriculum have been a topic of conversation over the last few years, making hands-on educational experiences more critical now than ever. These events create experiential learning opportunities for students to reflect, analyze and construct meaning from the information they gather.

Children’s agricultural events are one of the cornerstones of the commissions’ education initiatives. By communicating with students in a language and method they understand, the commissions can greatly impact young minds. By educating students on processes, industry, and each grain, the commissions create a foundation for the next generation to learn about agriculture.

The Wally and Betty’s Grain Gallery application is available to download for free on Apple and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play.