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Minnesota Ag News Headlines
Farmers Union Launches Ag-Based K-12 STEM Curriculum
Minnesota Ag Connection - 03/01/2019

Farmers Union Enterprises released STEM:IT AG, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum focused on agriculture, food and natural resources for kindergarten through 12th grade students.

"Talk about making science relevant -- all students eat," said Doug Sombke, president of Farmers Union Enterprises and South Dakota Farmers Union. "We are excited to share this curriculum which integrates STEM-based information into interactive units about agriculture and where food comes from with educators and students throughout the nation."

The curriculum is a joint effort between five Farmers Union state organizations (Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin), which comprise Farmers Union Enterprises, based in Redwood Falls, Minn. Farmers Union Enterprises partnered with the design group, STEM Fuse to produce and distribute the curriculum.

"Collaborating with the Farmers Union Enterprises team, we designed the curriculum to easily integrate ag-based STEM education in any unit teachers are focusing on," explained Carter Tatge, founder and CEO of STEM Fuse. "You don't need a STEM background or an agriculture background to provide STEM:IT AG to students. In fact, the curriculum requires little guidance from educators."

Miranda Letherman, North Dakota Farmers Union youth education specialist, said the curriculum also exposes students to potential careers, everything from computer coding and three-dimensional (3D) printing to developing agricultural commodities. In one STEM:IT AG challenge, students create a tool that could be used to harvest a crop, while another challenge asks them to design a solar oven from a shoebox, tinfoil and black paper to heat up food using the sun's energy.

"The hands-on challenges incorporate recycled materials and things you'd typically find in a classroom, so the activities aren't costly," Letherman said. She noted that some of the filaments used in the 3D printing actually come from farm byproducts. "All of us use engineering and design skills in our everyday lives without consciously knowing it. It's good old-fashioned problem solving, and the curriculum works to hone those skills."

Letherman said STEM exercises will be incorporated into North Dakota and many other Farmers Union state youth programming.

"There aren't a lot of educational tools available right now for teachers to use in the classroom when it comes to ag education, food and the resources it takes to produce food," said NDFU President Mark Watne. "The curriculum we've developed challenges students to learn through hands-on activities and problem solving."

Intuitively designed to integrate seamlessly into existing K-12 curriculum and compliment all topics, whether its STEM, social studies, history or language arts, the digital STEM:IT AG curriculum aligns with state and national standards and works across all platforms.

To learn more, contact Letherman at 952-0166 or mletherman@ndfu.org. To order STEM:IT AG, visit www.stemfuse.com or call STEM Fuse's National Sales Director Stephanie Spaan at 605-521-9213.

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