CP editorial: Early childhood education should include more than the ‘three Rs’

In elementary school, the basics of education are English, math, science, reading and writing. While these topics are all important for children to learn, and are needed for normal, daily life, there is something missing — agriculture.

From our food to our clothing, agriculture is essential for everyday life. It is just as important for children to start learning about agriculture at an early age as it is for them to learn reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic. Integrating agriculture into the classroom is not difficult. A teacher could make a math problem involving bushels of corn or head of cattle. They could also assign a story for the students to read involving a farm, or the many other aspects of the agriculture industry.

It wouldn’t take much at the beginning of their education, just enough to get the students familiar with the topic. Students can absorb much more information in elementary school than when they are in junior high or high school. In general, elementary students do not have biases yet, so they will actually learn the topic and come into the topic of agriculture with a fresh, clean view. Then as the students get older and learn about more core subjects, they can go more in depth about agriculture.

The American Farm Bureau Federation states that the average American is three generations removed from the farm. This means more and more people do not fully understand the complexity of growing food. They are unaware of the amount of hard work, time and care that goes into feeding the world. This can lead to people being scared of new foods and new farming techniques as adults.

If the public were better informed about agricultural practices, most of the fear and ridicule of production agriculture would disappear. Better education about agriculture could even help battle food insecurity and hunger. For instance, providing children experiences such as gardening would have many benefits. Not only would they get hands-on training in growing their own food, but gardening is also a great form of exercise. The acts of watering, weeding and harvesting require the use of fine motor skills. Experience in a garden also provides sensory stimulation, according to a Michigan State University press release. Teaching a child the signs of a plant needing to be watered and letting them water the plants and play with the water hose can be an effective sensory experience.

In New York, there are initiatives in place that help bring agriculture into the classroom. One such movement, a program of the Food Bank for New York City, is called “Cookshop.” According to their website, Cookshop teaches students about nutrients in the food, what healthy food is and how to eat healthier. It also teaches them about the benefits of using fresh grown food from a garden. This is a great start to teaching children about agriculture and creates a strong foundation in the subject so that future teachers can go further in depth about agriculture.

Today’s children are the next generation of farmers and agriculturists who are going to feed the world. With fewer and fewer children growing up on farms, it is critical that they are educated about farming and know about all of the opportunities in the agricultural industry.