RICHMOND — As educators and students acclimate to a unique school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom is giving educators extra time to apply for educational grants.
“As about 90 percent of Virginia schools began the school year in a virtual or hybrid model and many with delayed openings, AITC has extended our 2020-21 educator grant deadline,” said Tammy Maxey, Virginia AITC programs director. “Educators need extra time to create new and innovative concepts to integrate agriculture into new classroom settings.”
Instead of a September deadline as in previous years, K-12 educators interested in applying for up to $500 in grant funding have until Oct. 15 to submit applications.
Applicants must incorporate agricultural concepts into their lessons, addressing topics like gardening and horticulture, nutrition, embryology and STEM.
While Maxey said she hopes students have the opportunity for hands-on experiences, she recognizes the pandemic changes make implementing those activities difficult.
“Many teachers may need to illustrate agricultural concepts virtually or provide students with tools to create the experience at home,” she said.
There will be only one round of grants for the 2020-21 school year, Maxey added. Teachers, parent-teacher associations and other organizations like 4-H clubs and FFA chapters that work with schools may apply.
In addition, because the 2019-2020 school year was interrupted, AITC has extended the deadline for those school-year grants to Dec. 31.
“Many teachers shared that their planned projects were just about to launch when schools were closed as a result of the pandemic,” Maxey said. “We want to provide educators an opportunity to amend their projects for the new school environment.”
As an example, she cited a teacher who created a virtual garden for his students. He grew tomato plants and posted videos on YouTube for students to view. At the end of the school year, students were given vegetable plants and handouts with information about the plants and how to care for them at home.
Maxey said she’s looking forward to seeing what ideas educators come up with for the 2020-21 grant projects.
“Our grants provide educators with the tools to spark interest in the field of agriculture to provide for the needs of the world,” she said. “The current pandemic has increased an awareness of how important agriculture is to our daily lives.”
For application details and to learn more about Virginia AITC’s grant program, visit bit.ly/3mjhWF7. Applicants will be notified of their grant acceptance status in writing by Nov. 15.