The Illinois Soybean Association has been busy in Illinois classrooms over the past few weeks.
ISA Ag Literacy Coordinator Janet Hodel has embarked on a PodtoPlate.org educational tour funded in part by the Illinois soybean checkoff. Through her interactive education presentation, Hodel has been able to introduce the PodtoPlate.org curriculum to classrooms, teaching students about soybean production while evaluating the overall effectiveness of the program.
Hodel already has completed four visits this year, including stops at Rankin Elementary School in Pekin, Delavan Elementary School and PALS Preschool in Peoria; her tour will pick up again when school resumes in the fall.
When Hodel visits a classroom, she teaches lessons on soybean production that are tailored to each grade. Hodel reads Sam's Soy Trek to children ages three to seven as a primary teaching tool. Through the use of rhymes and play with stickers, the story teaches children about soybeans from planting to harvesting and production, while introducing them to the Pod to Plate characters.
Students in grades four through eight get familiar with PodtoPlate.org, a self-guided educational website that helps them discover everything about soybeans and how they affect the world. Hodel helps them get started with the site, and then lets them complete the interactive adventure on their own.
"It is important for today's youth to learn about farming and soybean production," says ISA District 14 Director Donald Guinnip. "We felt developing this curriculum and introducing it to schools throughout the state was critical as more generations are removed from agriculture. It used to be that mom and dad or even grandma and grandpa farmed, but that isn't the case anymore. Now, it's up to us to communicate, inform and educate the importance of soybean production."
One of the unique aspects of Hodel's program is her educational tool kit that was specifically designed with the student in mind. It contains real-life materials such as soyfoods, soy crayons, a jar of biodiesel, John Deere tractor seat foam made out of soybeans and many more examples of how a soybean starts as a pod and ends up on a plate.
"Many students don't realize they use soybeans in everyday life," says Hodel. "From the books they read to the food they eat to their parents' automobile seats, soybeans are everywhere!"
A short video from Hodel's visit to Rankin Elementary School is available on the ISA YouTube Channel, at www.youtube.com/ilsoybean.