Seed to STEM

(Heather Newell) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I am your guest host Heather Newell and today we have a special episode as we follow organizers and participants through the inaugural Seed to Stem educational initiative launched this year by the Kansas Corn Commission. It is going to be a great show, so make sure you stay tuned.

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(Greg Krissek) I’m Greg Krissek, CEO with Kansas Corn, representing both Kansas Corn Commission and the Kansas Corn Growers Association. We’re here today at the inaugural Seed to STEM class with middle school and high school, primarily science teachers. We at the Corn Commission over the last year have had the opportunity with some additional resources as our Check Off rate was increased a year ago to look at new programming. One of the priorities that our commissioners identified was working with K through 12 education, and in this case, with middle school and high school teachers to provide them some tools for the classroom related to agriculture and specifically growing of corn and uses of corn in different production environments. So we’re in the first year of the additional resources being available, and among the priorities have included raising the visibility of the corn industry in Kansas through a variety of outreach. We’ve been able to work towards additional social media involvement with our agricultural program. We are looking at an informational campaign that may have a variety of tools targeted to consumers. And then we have looked at programming in our ethanol market development especially around infrastructure. Then very importantly, what can we do in the realm of working with education? Especially with teachers as they have great impacts on the students and the students’ families that they interact with every year. So we’ve looked at a couple different programs, this one is Seed to STEM, is by far our largest new education program for this year in which this two-day institute with teachers will involve both lesson plans and hands-on lesson plans that they can take back to their classroom. Lessons where the biotechnology in ethanol that meet the state standards that these teachers need to comply with, as well as visiting a farm, and visiting an ethanol plant. We also are working with a program at K-State which is a boot camp, an institute primarily for elementary school teachers that has been in existence with the Soybean Commission for a number of years and we’ve now added a corn component through one of the K-State lead professors, Brian McCornack, of K-State Ag Entomology. Then as we think about the older students, the high school students and they’re thinking about careers, we’re truly excited about the type of careers you can have whether it’s farming on the land, or whether it’s in one of the seed technology companies, or processing companies. To introduce, especially urban students who don’t have a connection with production agriculture, to why production agriculture is important and why agriculture is important even to consider it as a career. Those are all things we think that can have a major impact.

(Melinda Lloyd) My name is Melinda Lloyd, and I’m a partner and Chief Operating Officer at Education Projects and Partnerships. We’re here today putting on the Seed to STEM program for the Kansas Corn Commission, and Seed to STEM essentially is intended to teach middle school and high school teachers about the science that is inherent in agriculture. Because of science in agriculture, farmers can do more with less. They can raise more and spend less money, use less acreage, they can use less pesticides, less fertilizer, and that’s good for everybody. So here, we want to introduce teachers to that. We, at this specific program, are helping teachers learn how to make ethanol, or teaching them how to build a bio-plasmid, and how to extract DNA, because those are all things that happen in careers in agriculture. Scientists make ethanol in agriculture and they also do biotechnology work to help the seeds be stronger and sometimes they can help the seed be more drought tolerant, they can help the seed need less pesticides, or need less fertilizer. So if we can show teachers how scientists do that work, then they can take it back to the classroom and help their students understand it. This is all about making the teachers not only Ag-literate, but aware of the science in agriculture, so they can go back and talk to their students about that, and then in trickles down. Students talks to their parents, talk to their community members, and it just continues to help everyone build an awareness of agriculture and what farmers do to help raise crops in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Also, what scientists do to make farming and agriculture more cutting edge and better for everyone. This year is the inaugural Seed to STEM Program here in Kansas. We’ve done this program at other States, but Kansas Corn Commission asked us to bring this program to Kansas this year. We had 35 teachers sign up and 31 have shown up here today to learn about these resources. The great thing is, not only would they learn and receive curriculum material to take back to the classroom but we actually give them – thanks to funding from Kansas Corn Commission – kits to take back to their classroom that are worth about $500. And that will allow them to actually do the DNA extraction, building bioplasma, making ethanol right in their classroom without having to purchase additional materials. That’s the magic, that’s the key. Because if you don’t give teachers that, then they receive the materials but don’t have the funding to make it happen in their classroom. This investment by Kansas Corn Commission in this workshop and in these resources, are what will enable teachers to really take this home and use it. We typically see that teachers in other States, within just a few months are already implementing this content. Last year, we did some studies and found that half of the teachers that we reached, within three months had already implemented two of the pieces of the curriculum in their classroom. That’s a great implementation. This year, we’re doing one conference in the Kansas City area. Next year, the Kansas Corn Commission plans to invest in two conferences here in Kansas. We believe the second conference maybe in the Wichita area or the Topeka area. They’re very interested in reaching teachers that are teaching in the urban areas. Next year, we’re excited to be doing this in two different locations here in Kansas in June of 2017.

(Brenda Bott) Hi, I’m Brenda Bott, and I am a teacher at Shawnee Mission West High School. I coordinate and teach the classes and courses in the Shawnee Mission School District Biotechnology Signature Program. This year, we have the good fortune to host this Seed to STEM Teacher Workshop for teachers in Kansas and it’s sponsored by the Kansas Corn Commission. I teach biotechnology and the students in our immediate area don’t know a lot about biotechnology as it’s related to agriculture. I was very willing to learn information. And also, to share a lab space and to get the word out that there is a lot of science to be done in the classroom, and involve agriculture and its marriage to biotechnology. (Dennis Newell) My name is Dennis Newell. Last year I taught at Turning Point Charter School. It’s a high school. I teach nine through twelve classes; all Math and Science classes in the high school level. What I hope to gain from this conference is, I had been at other workshops that talked about energy, and this seems like the perfect thing to include corn as the energy, a source for various things in the world of ethanol. I’m hoping that through this conference, I can bring back some new activities; possible for career activities for my students as well as other types of ways to hook them into the renewable energy resource area. It’s always good to find out that there’s something new that we can try or do. Again, there are so many things. Sometimes one activity will not influence a student to pursue it, but you have to continue as a teacher to look for other activities. We look for a hook all the time in education. To say what’s going to draw that one student to interest, so that he can develop this into a lifelong career. And when they don’t really know what that career is going to be because technology is moving fast, we have to continue, teachers like myself feel like they have to continue providing new opportunities for students.

(Dennis McNinch) I’m Dennis McNinch and this is my wife Kim. We are from Ness County, Kansas. I serve as the Vice Chairman of the Kansas Corn Commission. We’re here at Lawrence, Kansas today with the inaugural class of the Seed to STEM Education Program that we’ve started with the Kansas Corn Commission to help with the educators throughout the State of Kansas, and getting them educated with biotechnology with corn and the production of ethanol. (Kim McNinch) For an educator now in Kansas, we are having a drastic change in our funding, and biotechnology is going to be the science of the future, and I implore people to get on board with this. We need to get more resources into the classroom and this was a way to bring the classroom resources to teachers by teaching them how important biotechnology is to agriculture. (Dennis) Well, education is a very key component and as we go forward with corn and corn production, what we have discovered throughout the state is—and not only the state but throughout the nation and even on a global standpoint, that the word about corn, and biotechnology, and the stigmas that go along with biotechnology in corn and ethanol. We just don’t feel like the story was properly being told and so we’ve reached out to other states that have had a very successful program with educating their educators throughout the country with biotechnology and ethanol production and corn, to be specific. So we think this is an excellent opportunity to educate our youth in the benefits of corn and we want to make sure that we’re helping to deliver that message. (Pat Ross) My name is Pat Ross, and I’m one of the owners of this farm that we call, the Nunemaker-Ross Farm. Been in the family for good many years and we’re excited today to welcome teachers from across the state that are science teachers to try to show them the aspects of growing corn in Kansas here and how we go about it, and the different kinds of corn that we grow on our farm. We actually have sweet corn, yellow dent corn, and a waxy corn that’s made into corn starches, the food grade starches. About 30% of our corn is that waxy corn variety. 1% of the corn we grow or about 25 acres is the sweet corn, and the balance of it is yellow dent corn that we feed to our cattle along with other ingredients. We’re excited about getting in front of these science teachers. We can introduce them to what happens on the farm as far as the growth stages of the corn, the needs it has as far as fertilizers, the chemicals that we use, we talked a lot about the changes we’ve seen over the years. In the ‘70s we had a lot of changes in equipment for our farm anyway, we went from 38-inch rows down to 30-inch rows, and that was a big step we thought. In the ‘80s, hybrids were becoming more prevalent and they were better suited for our farms than what they had been in the past. The ‘90s, we saw the roundup technology starting to come to the forefront. In the ‘2000s, we’ve had more technology in our farms and that we have auto-steer on our tractors and combines, we have sub-inch technology as far as guidance, we can have yield maps, print it off, information that we get from the combines, we send that information to the cloud and retrieve it back. It’s just unbelievable to me, the things that we can do with the technology that we have today.

(Blake Smith) My name is Blake Smith. (Jed Heath) I’m Jed Heath and we’re from Maize South High School. (Blake) We’re at the Seed to STEM conference which is over in the Kansas City area. It’s cool because a lot of our kids don’t have any kind of background in agriculture. We come from a district where we’re very close to Wichita, so they’re very much city kids. But right around our district, we’ve got a lot of farm country. So what we try to do, is we want to actually bring some of the knowledge of the farm into the classroom. So that’s what this conference, this workshop is all about, kind of the science behind corn. (Jed) Yes. We teach different subjects and through the course of our subjects, we want to take this conference and somehow integrate it into each of the different grade levels, which Blake is going to give us an example of. (Blake) Yes. So in our school, we teach Earth Science to freshmen, Biology to sophomores, and Chemistry to juniors. So at this conference, we’re actually learning seven or eight different labs that we could take into the classroom, and our thought is to actually sprinkle those different labs amongst the classes. So as the kids go through their high school career, they’re seeing the science behind corn, each and every class, so they’re looking at the science behind corn through each different lens basically, through the earth science lens, through the biology, through the chemistry lens. (Jed) There’s so many different levels of what, out here, we see at farm field, but how do we get this food, how do we get the most out of it, and how does this apply to our students? (Blake) Yes. Honestly we’re city guys, and we know little bit about farming but not whole lot, so this is a great introduction for us so that we can be knowledgeable when we go back to the classroom as well. (Jed) Yes. One of things we were talking about with, how we want to incorporate this is, trying to find ways that we can actually get out kids to plant a little bit of corn, then harvest it, and then use those kernels that we got out of this corn to be able to do in the labs themselves. One of things that we learned today is that about 2% of the population is feeding the other 98%. This is something that I think a lot of people don’t realize. We grow up — where we live, there are a lot of farms but that’s only owned by a few people that are doing this, where the majority of the people have no idea actually how to get food out of that field. (Blake) This relates directly to the next generation science standards, and what those are all about is showing the kids the real world when it comes to the sciences. As much as we can relate to what they eat, what they see as they pass by in cars, it’s more powerful, and this is very, very hands-on which a lot of the kids relate to. (Jed) I think that’s one of the things that these kids need, is hands-on experience with all of this material. (Blake) Yes. We kind of want to wrap up with the joke. (Jed) Take it away Blake. (Blake) Actually have two jokes. I’ll tell the first. (Jed) Okay, I’ll tell the second. (Blake) Yes. What did the corn say as you eat it? (Jed) I don’t know Blake. (Blake) You don’t know? See you tomorrow. (Jed) All right, all right, Blake. I’ll try and top that. (Blake) Okay. (Jed) Why do you never tell a secret in a cornfield? (Blake) Why? (Jed) Because it’s full of ears. (Blake) All right, we’re out.

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