Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Full Farmers of the Future Program will be Ready for the Start of School

**PLEASE NOTE:  This post was drafted just before receiving news of the Niger floods. The good news for Farmers of the Future is that our 3 pilot schools were not flooded and the mini-farms are in tact. Unfortunately, many in the villages are homeless. They are being housed temporarily in the classrooms. We don't know when these families will be relocated and whether the start of the school year will be affected. Nonetheless, we are moving forward with our launch plans and will be ready whenever the school year begins.**

How do kids learn best? There's no one answer; some learn best in the classroom, while others learn by doing. With Farmers of the Future, our concept has always been to combine these two learning styles. The hands-on learning in the mini-farms has been in place for the last year, but the classroom curriculum has lagged somewhat behind. We had a "soft launch" of the classroom program last February, and now, after months of hard work, the complete classroom curriculum is ready to go. The full Farmers of the Future program as originally envisioned will be launched with the start of the new school year this October.

Lots of work has gone into completing the classroom program. First, we needed to finalize the teachers manual and student texts. The teachers manual identifies week by week, over a two year period, how to integrate FOF into the national curriculum. For instance, there are opportunities to bring specialized FOF topics into math, science, and environmental courses, which are some of the required subjects.

Next, we developed illustrated pamphlets for the students. These materials are complete, approved by the Ministry of Education, and ready for printing! 700 manuals are being printed; 600 student pamphlets and 100 teaching manuals. Scroll to the bottom of this post, or click here, to scroll through a .pdf of a sample student pamphlet. It's in French, but it should give you an idea of what's been produced.

You may be wondering just who is teaching the FOF program? The answer is simple--the regular teachers at the schools.  Since they have no prior knowledge of FOF's farming concepts and techniques, we have had to teach the teachers before they can teach their students. This is no small task, and if anything, we underestimated just how much training would be required. As a result, we have significantly increased this aspect of the program. Teachers have already completed two training sessions, in February and April, and they will take part in two weeks of rigorous training in September prior to the new school year. Additionally, they participate in monthly workshops where they discuss the program and its implementation, and prepare model classes for their peers.

October 1 marks the true launch of the Farmers of the Future program as originally envisioned! Our goals in this pilot phase are to develop the program, test it in the real world, identify what's working well and what's not, and make improvements. As such, we will be monitoring everything closely in order to fine-tune the program and ready it for expansion to other schools.

The over-arching goal of Farmers of the Future is to showcase the great potential of modern farming, and to give these children the tools to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. As always, you help to make all of this possible, and we thank you for your support.

Farmers of the Future Illustrated Pamphlet

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