Ag in the Classroom

Educator Resources

AG MAGS are four page, colorful magazines for kids. They contain information about agriculture, bright pictures, activities and career info. Ag Mags come in packs of 30 and are FREE to Illinois educators. Paper copies can be obtained through our office.  For a complete list of Ag Mags that are available please click here.

GRANTS:  Need some extra money for a project in your classroom?  The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program has grant money available for teachers.  Teachers can apply for up to $250 for non-consumable materials for their classroom project. Grants are due on October 1 of each year.

AG BOOKS: We have a collection of accurate ag books that we are willing to share. Click here to see a complete list of books. Contact our office to check one out.

LOANER KITS: The following kits are available to check out from our office, please call to reserve them.

  • The Wheat We Eat: (PreK-3) This kit contains wheat stalks, wheat kernels, a grinder for the kernels, storybooks and a lesson plan binder to help you share this Illinois crop, planted in the fall and harvested in June, with your class.
  • Adventures Around the Farm: (PreK-3) A binder full of lesson ideas, animal stamps, storybooks, non-fiction books, corn, soybean and wheat seeds and activity books are all included in this kit.
  • Seasons on the Farm: (PreK-3) Everything you need to start teaching about seasons on the farm, a binder of lesson ideas, fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs and seasonal stamps.
  • Hatching Chicks: We have everything you need to hatch chicks available to borrow and use in your classroom. We can include a visit to talk about egg embryology or we will include a binder with possible lesson plans related to hatching chicks. We can also aid you in finding fertile eggs to incubater and homes for your chicks after they hatch.

Contents of the Adventures Around the Farm Kit

For more information on our Ag in the Classroom Program,

please contact Donna Zwilling AT 

(618) 393-4116



What is Ag in the Classroom?

Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is a statewide educational program. Its goal is to help students and teachers gain awareness of agriculture in their daily lives. By having agriculture educators come into classrooms, camps, afterschool programs, clubs and more, students learn about the agriculture industry and take part in hands-on activities that enrich the lesson.

Richland County Farm Bureau currently provides AITC visits to all 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Richland County Elementary School, St. Joseph School and East Orchard Academy approximately once a month during the school year.  We strive to help children make connections between items they use (such as pencils, t-shirts, and lunch) and activities they do in everyday life (like playing soccer and riding the bus) and agriculture by providing interesting and interactive learning opportunities.  We also provide resources and workshops to help educators incorporate agriculture into science, math, reading, writing and social studies.


Creating fact or hogwash statements for a game about hogs, making cheese using milk and vinegar, and causing food color to dance around in a pan of milk are just a small part of what happened in Richland County Ag in the Classroom lessons in January.

Fifth graders at RCES, St. Joseph School and 4th-7th graders at East Orchard Academy linked together the dairy value chain. They identified the eight key steps that milk goes through to get from the farm to the consumer, which is the dairy value chain. They then created a paper chain using slips of paper with pictures of each step which they labeled and put together.  The lesson ended by learning that milk is roughly 87% water and 13% fats and protein. This combination can cause food coloring that is dropped into milk move around when soap is added to the mixture.

Fourth graders at RCES and St. Joseph School discovered that pizza is not just Italian food. Pizza is a combination of ingredients that originated from all over the world.  Students were given a picture of a pizza ingredient and determined whether it was from the Old World (Europe, Africa & Asia) or from the New World (North, Central & South America).  They discovered that wheat originated in what is now Turkey, tomatoes in Central/South America and olives, they are probably the most Italian topping for a pizza, since they originated in the Mediterranean. The lesson was topped off by making the most popular pizza topping, cheese!

St. Joseph third graders and East Orchard second and third graders went hog wild with a game called “Truth or Hogwash.”  After listening to the book Pigs, by Gail Gibbons. The students were given a Pork Ag Mag, slips of paper and a category such as Life Cycle and Nutrition.  They were challenged to create true or hogwash (false) statements about pigs.  The statements were then used to play a game.  


Fun with Food, Fiber and Environment

Watersheds, chocolate and cotton, though very different topics, all have a common denominator....agriculture.  St. Joseph and RCES 5th graders discovered that a watershed is a region or area draining into a particular watercourse or body of water. During their ag in the classroom activities they saw examples of different types of pollution, how pollution affects water, and practices that farmers and other people in the community use to prevent water pollution, using the Enviroscape model of a watershed.

RCES 4th graders, traced the route of chocolate from the tropical regions of the world to their Valentine’s day candy.  The Theobroma cacao tree is grown within 20 degrees north and south of the Equator and thrives on a mix of hot temperatures, rain and shade.  Chocolate is made from the seed of the tree, which is found in the colorful fruits, called cacao pods.  During the lesson students got to taste test chocolate containing different amounts of cacao, from 85% to less than 43%.  The higher the concentration of cacao, the less sugar there is in the bar. Can you guess which was the students favorite?

St. Joseph 3rd graders and East Orchard 2nd-7th grades were informed that even though cotton is not a major crop in Illinois, they are most likely wearing or using something made of cotton every day!  Students watched a video showing how cotton is grown and harvested, discovered some of the adaptations that a cotton plant has to survive in hot climates, and worked to “gin” or remove the seeds from cotton bolls provided to them.

All the students currently getting monthly Ag in the Classroom lessons, received t-shirts from the Richland County Farm Bureau this month.


Good things often come in small packages

During March Richland County Ag in the Classroom focused on seeds, DNA and poetry...good things, in small packages!

Fourth graders dissected lima beans, corn and pine nuts to see the structures they contained, the seed coat, food supply and embryo. They explored how monocots and dicots sprout from the ground differently, monocots usually have a single, strap-like leaf and dicots usually have two leaves, which are the food storage part of the seed!  Each student got to make a “seed baby,” which is a small bag containing a monocot seed, a dicot seed and a damp cotton ball to give them moisture to sprout.

Fifth graders focused on DNA.  They made a DNA model using twizzlers, marshmallows and toothpicks, then extracted their own DNA from cells collected from swishing sports drink in their mouth. They discussed how farmers select seeds and breeding animals based on desired traits, such as disease resistance and birth weight. These traits come from the genetic code found in the organism's DNA.

Ag in the Classroom Coordinator, Donna Zwilling shared selected poems from The Popcorn Astronauts, by Deborah Ruddell with St. Joseph School third graders and East Orchard second and third graders.  After reading the poems the students “journeyed” across the United States by following directions and coloring certain states that are know for certain ag products, such as corn for Illinois and citrus for Florida.  Then they got to write their own poems about certain ag products.

Claire shows of her DNA model


What did the big flower say to the small flower? What’s up, Bud! Richland County fourth graders got all the buzz on flowers and pollination during the month of April.  Students explored the parts of a flower by dissecting daffodils and identifying the pistil, stamens, petals, ovary & ovules. Then they played a game to see how pollination occurs as pollinators fly from flower to flower.

Fifth graders learned about how beef cattle are raised and then looked at how gene combinations from two parent cattle can lead to different looking offspring. They got to build their own calf by flipping a coin to see which gene the calf received from it’s parents, the traits were solid or spotted, polled or horned, black coat or red coat and male or female.

Poetry from March AITC

Poppy Popcorn

Even when it has no salt, it is good, very good to eat.

Popcorn is a nice and crunchy treat.

It’s really delicious, and it’s really nutritious.

By Rebekah, Angel, Josh, Evelyn and Johnson

Apple Kingdom

An apple with a brown hat.

It is really crunchy.

It is juicy as a pear.

It has red clothes.

By Alexis, Logan, Michael, Jack, Graham, Ezha & Sebastian


Bananas are yellow with brown spots.

Has a soft peeling when getting peeled.

Is also healthy and bitter.

The best is a hard stem to peel the peeling

By Briley, Lily, Emma, Carter, Jackson, Holden


Wheat is helpful, and so delicious.

It is brown and dry, and it is good.

It is spiky.

By Levi, Sabrina, Carter, Hudson, Carly & Miles


Richland County AITC Breaks Out of the Box

During May Ag in the Classroom, 4th graders at RCES and St Joseph School were given the task of saving the world from an evil villain, Dr. Antiago.  They were given puzzles and clues related to their Ag in the Classroom lessons from the year which they had to use to open a box with four locks. Inside the box was a message written in code that they used to turn off evil Dr. Antiago’s soil nutrient removal system. RCES and St. Joseph School Fifth graders also had a breakout box for Ag in the Classroom in May, their box was all about pollinators.  The scenario was that they were helping a pollinator expert get her plane tickets out of the locked box. Some of their clues included finding invisible ink numbers on the Pollinator Ag Mag, counting different colors of milkweed flowers, and finding directions by reading about pollinators from around the world….one of which was a mosquito! (Yes, some species of mosquitoes are pollinators!)

St Joseph School 3rd graders finished their Ag in the Classroom lessons off with a breakout box focusing on Economics, which was a topic they just finished covering in Social Studies, and included vocabulary words like currency, supply and demand. Though the stories for the breakout boxes are fictional, the fact is that the students had a great time trying to work together to figure out the clues and open the boxes!