Multidisciplinary AGricultural Integrated Curriculum Lesson Upgrades
First came the AgriScience kits
In the early 1990’s, DeKalb County Farm Bureau obtained a set of AgriScience Kits for use in the classroom. Focused on topics like dairy farming, mathematics in agriculture, and renewable resources, the kits contained detailed lesson plans and all the supplies and equipment needed to conduct each activity.
The kits were developed by the University of Illinois with funds from Facilitating Coordination in Ag Education (FCAE), a project of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The kits provided engaging ways for Illinois teachers to introduce agricultural knowledge to students via hands-on science lessons.
Teachers found the AgriScience Kits useful, but they wished for more. If agriculture could be taught in science, they asked, why couldn’t it be incorporated into other subjects, too?
Then came the mAGIC kits
In 2005, funds were budgeted in ISBE’s Ag Ed Line Item to do just that. A team of ag literacy coordinators from around Illinois began working on “mAGic”—Multidisciplinary AGricultural Integrated Curriculum. These kits would incorporate the best lessons from the AgriScience kits but also weave in math, social studies, and language arts lessons.
The most extensive of the new mAGic kits created was Illinois mAGic. “I joined the kit writing team in about 2006,” says Ag Literacy Coordinator Rhodora Collins. “The team was just wrapping up the Machines Kit, and then we launched into Illinois. I think the Illinois kit took more time than all the other kits combined!” Over time, the Illinois kit also became one of the most popular, especially with 4th grade teachers.
There were limitations. “When we developed the kits, teachers weren’t searching for lessons online like they are now,” says Collins. To use the mAGic lessons, teachers borrowed the kits. “Sometimes I emailed copies of specific lessons to get teachers interested in using the kits, but they couldn’t be found online.” Conducting professional development workshops also increased awareness and use of the kits. However, it eventually became obvious that to maximize lesson use, they would have to be online.
Illinois mAGic at teachers’ fingertips
Fast forward to 2020, when FCAE funding was earmarked to update the mAGic lessons and make them accessible online. Beginning with the Illinois kit, the writing team worked throughout the year, methodically reviewing lessons, making changes and updates, and occasionally creating brand-new lessons.
As of mid-February 2021, the revised Illinois mAGic lessons are available at https://www.ilaged.org/AITC. “I still have the Illinois kits in my office, so teachers can still borrow all the books and supplies,” notes Collins. But now that the lessons are online, teachers can browse and download them any time.
The lesson writing team is still in the process of revising lessons from the Dairy, Insect, Machine, Poultry, Plant, and Soil mAGic kits.
DeKalb County teachers may visit www.GrowYoungMinds.org to see and request the mAGic kits as well as dozens of other kits and resources.
The most popular lesson in the Illinois mAGic kit is titled The Shape of Illinois. Students learn how glaciers shaped the topography of our state, and how topography in turn shapes agriculture.
Malta Elementary teacher Carri Flewellyn creates a relief map of Illinois during a Summer Ag Institute workshop focused on the mAGic kits.
The Illinois mAGic kit contains resources and supplies to conduct nearly 50 lessons across the curriculum. All mAGic lessons are designed for grades 4-8.