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MTSU center takes agriculture to classrooms throug...

MTSU center takes agriculture to classrooms through ‘The Virtual Farm’ [+VIDEO]

Virtual STEM Farm 2022-promo

With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services is embarking on an informational tour of the Southeast to take the farm into the classroom.

Michelle Sterlingshires (Photo submitted)
Michelle Sterlingshires
Jill Thomas, project coordinator, Center for Health and Human Services
Jill Thomas

In partnership with the School of Agriculture’s Fermentation Science Program, CHHS is taking its “STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm” project to conferences in Georgia and Florida and locations throughout Tennessee. They already have visited the Greater Homeschool Convention in Greenville, South Carolina, and the 11th annual Building Expertise Educators Conference in Orlando, Florida.

STEMsational Ag-Virtual Farm logo

“The Virtual Farm” provides both formal and nonformal educational content for K-14 students that is appropriate for traditional school settings, both in-person and via distance learning, as well as home-schooled children. The content relates to agriculture and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

CHHS USDA Project Coordinator Jill Thomas, who is traveling with CHHS Project Assistant Michelle Sterlingshires on the tour, said the project’s purpose is to “introduce children to agriculture and STEM-related topics as well as good health and healthy living. Some may even develop interest in a future agriculture career.”

The curriculum includes modules and audio-visual resources, projects and assignments that are age-appropriate and tailored to each grade level. Activities are connected to National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes and Next Generation Science Standards.

Cynthia Chafin, associate director for community programs, Center for Health and Human Services interim director
Cynthia Chafin

CHHS received $816,000 in USDA/COVID Rapid Response funding for the project in 2020. The stipend was part of an investment of more than $10.5 million to support educators nationwide and to provide innovative STEM program delivery for the future.

“As the project moves forward and more educators and students are using and engaging in the curriculum and related activities, we will be sharing outcomes and impact,” said Cynthia Chafin, CHHS director. “We know that many students are being introduced to agriculture, STEM and health-focused topics and cannot wait to see what they have learned.”

Jill Thomas, left, project coordinator for the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services, and center staffer Michelle Sterlingshires promote "STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm" at the 11th annual Building Expertise Educators' Conference in Orlando, Florida, the week of June 20. (Photo submitted)
Jill Thomas, left, project coordinator for the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services, and center staffer Michelle Sterlingshires promote “STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm” at the 11th annual Building Expertise Educators’ Conference in Orlando, Florida, the week of June 20. (Photo submitted)

The Center for Health and Human Services, founded in 1993, seeks to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans and that of the nation through collaborative affiliations and multi-state partnerships. The center is primarily externally funded and has received more than $11 million in funding to do meaningful public health work.

Center for Health and Human Services logo

For more information, contact Thomas at jill.thomas@mtsu.edu, or visit www.STEMsationalAg.com. The CHHS website is \www.mtsu.edu/chhs.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

A YouTube promotional video about the program can be watched below:


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