They stood in a classroom and waited for the fourth graders to tell them where their food comes from.
High school students at Whiteland Community High School didn’t expect most of the elementary aged students to know the answer.
That is why they agreed to try out a new seven-week program that will promote literacy for elementary school students, teach them about agriculture and raise money for an international organization that teaches people in third world countries the basics of raising farm animals.
Students at Whiteland Elementary School and Whiteland Community High School are part of a statewide program called Read to Feed.
Elementary school students are encouraged to read books about agriculture and ask their family and friends to sponsor their reading with donations. Donations go to Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that sends animals to villages in third world countries, teaching the villagers the basics of caring for the animals and sustaining techniques.
Eleven schools in Indiana are part of the program through the Indiana FFA and Heifer International. Indiana FFA is trying out the program for the first time this spring.
Elementary school students get a lesson in agriculture and how pervasive hunger is in other parts of the world and high school students will get a grade in their agriculture class on the lessons they teach.
Part of the reason Whiteland Elementary School was chosen for the pilot program is because most of the students at that school might not recognize that their food comes from farms, high school agriculture teacher Hannah Goeb said.
Some don’t know that farms are nearby that work to produce food for them or even that their food comes from a farm, she said.
“A lot of them don’t know where their food comes from,” she said. “It’s good to start them young and get them involved.”
Teaching children where their food comes from has been a goal for Indiana FFA, said Emily Dougherty, senior and District 8 Indiana FFA president.
“We are able to do literacy and have a larger impact on the national scene,” she said.
They decided to take part in Heifer International’s existing program that ties literacy to world hunger and agriculture lessons.
Villagers are then taught how to care for the animals and use the animals for food. Once the animals reproduce, more food and production becomes available and the village population has a sustainable food source.
“It really has a large impact to take away hunger,” Dougherty said.
First high school students have to teach elementary school students why their reading is important and about the impoverished villages they will be helping.
In Goeb’s class each pair of students were given a week to come up with a lesson plan to teach the students.
They have started slow and with the basics. In the first lesson, fourth graders learned exactly what agriculture is and how farms turn animals and crops into food that their parents buy at the grocery store.
The younger students learned about different farms in the country and how third world countries sometimes struggle because they don’t have the technology to have industrialized farming.
High school students will then ease into teaching the students about world hunger and how agriculture and sustaining techniques can help the problem, senior Tommy Copeland said.
“It is trying to get into their mind that there is a farmer behind every meal they eat,” he said.