Three District 58 teachers earn “Ag in the Classroom” grants from DuPage County Farm Bureau

The DuPage County Farm Bureau recently awarded three Downers Grove Grade School District 58 teachers with Ag in the Classroom grants to support agricultural education.

Congratulations to Ron Bowers, Kingsley second grade teacher; Brittany Sanfillippo, Highland kindergarten teacher; and Melissa Swallows, Fairmount third grade teacher, for receiving these grants. The teachers applied for the grants after attending a teacher institute day presentation led by the DuPage County Farm Bureau that inspired them to promote agricultural learning in their classrooms.

soybean swallows
A Fairmount third grader researches soybeans for a grant-funded project.

“My mom’s side of the family comes from a farming town outside of Champaign, Illinois,” Sanfillippo said. “First hand, I’ve seen how hard my great uncle and aunt have worked to take care of their farm. Many of my students are not familiar with what a farm is like, and I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with them. After attending the DuPage County Farm Bureau’s institute day this spring, I was inspired to integrate some of these farming topics into the units I already teach. I am very grateful that I received this grant and am looking forward to implementing these units with the resources that I received.”

Sanfillippo’s grant funded picture books pertaining to gardening and farming, as well as a how-to gardening kit and four baskets of plastic food that her kindergarteners can sort into food groups. She plans to start a gardening and farming classroom project using these grant materials later this month. She will re-use the resources next fall to coincide with a unit on apples, pumpkins and tree science.

“My students gravitate to any activity that is hands-on and exploratory,” Sanfillippo said. “By using these resources provided by the grant, I hope my students have a better understanding of how food grows, the jobs farmers have when growing food, and the groups foods can be sorted into.”

Bowers_Butter Churn
Mr. Bowers’ second graders use an authentic butter churn to turn cream into butter.

Bowers enhanced his classroom’s agriculture unit by purchasing an authentic butter churn with the grant funding. He incorporated history, English, science, social-emotional learning and art into a dynamic unit that explored U.S. agricultural history. He capped the unit off with a hands-on lesson in butter churning.

“It’s fun to learn about what it was like to live back then when people made their own butter,” said Noelle, a second grader. “I like history because I can learn about the past.”

Swallows’ classroom grant will allow Fairmount third graders to learn about farms, farming life and crops specific to Illinois.

“When I mentioned the idea of a farm unit to my students, they were extremely interested and excited about the topic,” Swallows said. “The students will learn about the structures of corn and soybeans; how we depend on these resources; and about careers in agriculture as there is an increasing need for individuals in this field.”

Learn more about the DuPage County Farm Bureau’s grant programs at https://dcfb.org/grants/.