Before fully launching Farm Camps to all educators, we started with 4 pilot programs. We learned a few lessons that helped us to now best serve our educators, students and AgHosts.

During our launch, we asked the MAITC Regional Curriculum Specialists to connect us to adventurous (and very understanding) educators in their region. First, we listened to what the educators thought would best connect with their curriculum. Next, we scheduled their tours with different AgHosts that fit their needs. Then we shared our resources with the educators and clarified presentation information with our AgHosts. Lastly, we jumped in head first!  

We surveyed the students before and after and were excited to see the growth in their ag knowledge following this experience!  We knew we were on to something and this program was going to be a huge hit!  After each pilot program, we interviewed both the educator and AgHost and quickly made some slight adjustments to make the next program even better.

Here are the top 5 lessons during our first 4 pilot programs:

1. Practice makes “almost” perfect

Through other virtual tours that we had done with Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, we knew that practicing technology with the AgHost was non-negotiable!  However, we assumed that everything would go smoothly with the student’s technology because, hello…it was 2020 and they had been doing so many things virtually, but that was not always the case! What we quickly learned is that technology doesn’t always want to work and to be ready to pivot if things were not working correctly.

We also learned that you could do a perfect run-through on a farm site on a Tuesday and on Wednesday, there could be sketchy areas within your tour.  Good communication between the AgHost and Tour Host (our Program Director for the pilots) was imperative to keep the flow of the tour!

2. AgHosts need to see the students during a virtual tour.

Imagine giving a speech talking to the back of everyone’s heads.  How difficult would it be to “read the room?”  As we prepared these first tours we focused heavily on the AgHost’s video angles and smoothness but did not even think about the location of the educator’s video camera (which typically ended up being in the back of the room).

We now make sure that there is a camera facing the students so that AgHosts can:

  • Get eye contact to check for absorption of information and pacing
  • Engage the students in questions
  • Check for understanding through nods and gestures

Having a camera capture student reactions and questions is so important for an engaging tour!

3. Engage the students

The Farm Camp tour is not just an ordinary tour — it’s an immersive experience!

When you are immersed in something, you are fully ENGAGED!

As we worked with the AgHosts on their content, we also provided ways for them to engage their audience with their content.

Examples of how our AgHosts engaged their student audience:

Examples of how our AgHosts engaged their student audience:

Raise your hand if…

Examples: Ask students to raise their hands if they’ve ever been in a tractor, owned a pet, or wanted to see the inside of a hog barn.

Who can tell me…

Examples: Ask a question where you want a student to share their knowledge or story

Shout it out

Examples:

  • Shout out the number of acres you think each cow/pair needs for grazing.
  • Shout out the number of bushels of soybeans one acre produces. 

4. Educators know their students best

As we are setting up a Farm Camp experience we start with learning about the audience!  And who can tell us best about the audience?  The educator!  Not only do we want to know about what the students know/understand but also if there are topics in other classes we can connect with.  We want to know about student behavior concerns and how best to engage them (see #3 above).  Learning from the educator about the students, helps us plan with the AgHost to create a successful learning experience.

5. Virtual options makes impossible opportunities possible

Who knew being thrown into virtual tours would be so incredibly impactful?  During our pilot programs students were able to venture “into” places that would not be possible in-person; ie. cattle ranches, hog barns, and a dairy carousel. 

Due to biosecurity measures, many agricultural sites are off limits to in-person visits, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have an employee show us inside virtually! 

Taking a bus full of students onto a cattle ranch would not be impactful as animals would run to avoid the visitors OR it may turn into a dangerous situation for the students.  But having the rancher take us on a private tour allowed students to get up close and personal with the livestock!

Our pilot programs helped us learn and adapt so we can continue to provide high-quality opportunities for you in the future.  We know we will learn more along the way and look forward to the continued growth to create more successful programs for you and your students to enjoy!

Educators: We are ready to connect you with your very own experience! Connect with our Farm Camp Program Director to begin planning your customized Farm Camp!

Now Planning Farm Camp Experiences for Fall 2021!
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