STEM Academy in Springfield sponsors virtual farm tour

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Students at the Global Impact STEM Academy are taking tours of farms on their laptop computers.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) in Springfield gave its students a chance to venture onto a sheep farm through their computers from home Wednesday.

The STEM Academy has participated in several virtual farm tours over the years, but this was their first time sponsoring one, according to school officials.

“VFT’s are a great way to give students and their families access to a variety of operations in the agricultural industry in a cost effective way. In addition, many operations limit in-person access due to biosecurity protocols,” said Josh Jennings, GISA Director. “Students also have the opportunity to engage directly with those owners and operators that are giving the live tours.”

All grade levels as well as their families have the opportunity to participate in the tours, Jennings said.

“Many of our students have siblings at home that do not attend GISA yet and this gives those families some additional resources and activities during the COVID-19 closure,” he said. “VFT’s help the students with gaining insight and exposure to the industry through an authentic experience. They can also hear first-hand and ask questions directly to producers in the industry in real-time.”

This type of learning opportunity has been in high demand due to the school closures, so many farms have been participating in the trips as live streams, according to Melanie Wilt, whose company Shift-ology conducts the virtual farm tours.

Ohio schools closed in March and students switched to distance learning as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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“Our traditional method of delivery has been from the farm to the classroom, but since schools have embraced distance learning for the last eight weeks, we have quickly pivoted to a live streamed option that allows students, families and the general public to connect with the farm trips, as well as promoting the sessions to teachers to assign for virtual learnings,” Wilt said. “The teachers have found this highly valuable and have requested additional experiences to help in their efforts to give students quality context that fits the curriculum.”

During the tours, students connect with a farmer.

“They generally get a guided tour, see inside the barns, outside the barns, and maybe even meet a farm dog or kid along the way. They sometimes experience milking cows, a live birth of baby piglets, or whatever else may be happening on the farm that day,” Wilt said.

Jennings said a link is provided to all students so they can join the tour and discussion.

“As the producer gives a tour and explanation of the operation, students can submit questions that then get passed along to the producer. It’s as close to being actually on the farm and face-to-face with the producer as you can without actually being there,” he said.

The trips were a great experience before the coronavirus, but it is more valuable now that distance learning has taken place, Jennings said.

The live streams can be viewed at virtualfarmtrips.com.

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