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The Perfect Match

Community players come together to boost ag literacy among young children.

Sometimes the cards just fall into place. In this case, four key “cards” came together: an idea, a need, funding, and a way to implement the idea.

The Farm Matching Game includes 30 farm images (for a total of 60 cards) and a 14-page instructions & fun facts booklet in a drawstring bag. Game cards can also be used to build early childhood skills such as sorting, sequencing, counting, and letter/word recognition.

An Idea

DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s ag literacy resource library has for many years maintained a “preschool barn” (now redeveloped as the Farm Discovery Kit) for teachers to borrow. It contains children’s books, lessons, and farm toys. It also contained a Farm Animals Concentration Game.

While taking inventory of the barn one day, Ag Literacy Coordinator Rhodora Collins noticed that some of the concentration game cards were tattered or missing. She made a mental note to acquire a replacement set, as its shabby condition proved it was a much-used teaching tool. Pondering whether the original set of cute cartoon farm animal cards was still available for sale, a thought struck her.

“Why use cartoon farm animals?” she thought. “Why can’t we use photos of real animals? In fact, why stop there? What about crops, buildings, and machines? What if we used photos of things area kids might actually see in their daily lives?”

Collaboration between DeKalb County Farm Bureau and the DeKalb County Community Foundation will enable Farm Matching Games to be distributed to over 1,000 families in the spring of 2020 during kindergarten registration. (From left) DCCF’s Community Engagement Director Teri Spartz, Farm Bureau Ag Literacy Coordinator Rhodora Collins, and volunteer Marcy Billington worked on the project.

She drafted a set of matching photo cards and took them home to play the game with her own preschooler. Soon afterwards, her daughter began delightedly pointing out grain bins, machine sheds, corn fields, and tractors—all images included in the card set—while riding in the car.

Rhodora became excited about the game’s potential to increase understanding of farming. Perhaps it could be made available to preschool and kindergarten teachers, along with an instruction booklet with explanations of each photo for background knowledge.

A Need

During a conversation with Regional Superintendent of Schools Amanda Christensen, Rhodora learned of the DeKalb County Community Foundation’s (DCCF) Kindergarten Readiness Initiative. Remembering her idea of making it available to preschool teachers, she described the matching game concept.

Hinckley preschooler Dempsey Youngmark and his mom, Heather, enjoy a sneak preview of the new Farm Matching Game. Dempsey will be a kindergartner at Hinckley-Big Rock Elementary in the fall of 2020. He and hundreds of children across DeKalb County will receive the game as part of a Kindergarten Readiness Kit.

The game might be an ideal component of the Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits that DCCF is coordinating and funding, Amanda noted. It would foster family interaction, children’s awareness of the world around them, and language skills.

Soon after this conversation, Farm Bureau’s Ag Literacy Committee met. By coincidence, committee member Marcy Billington was also a member of DCCF’s Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative. With years of kindergarten teaching experience herself, Marcy was excited about the game’s potential as a school readiness tool. The rest of the committee was, too.

Funding

Farm Bureau’s Ag Literacy Coordinator requested quotes from companies that could produce the game. Months passed. Then, another card fell into place.

Funding from local farmers, the Pipestone System, and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture made the Farm Matching Game a reality. Here, (from left) farmers Carl Heide of Future Pork, Pat Dumoulin and Mike Dumoulin with Independence Pork, and Melody Hall from the Foundation review the game.

Local farmers who raise pigs in partnership with Minnesota-based Pipestone System approached Farm Bureau with a desire to support an agricultural awareness project.

The farmers with Advantage Pork, Elite Pork, Future Pork, Independence Pork and Precision Pork agreed to provide much of the funding needed to produce the game. Pipestone System provided additional funds. A contribution from the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture topped off the total funds needed for production, packaging, and shipping.

Finally, the game would become a reality.

Implementation

Back to DeKalb County Community Foundation’s Kindergarten Readiness Initiative: A key component of the effort is the creation of “toolkits” provided to parents during kindergarten registration. The toolkits contain items such as writing boards and markers, magnetic letters, scissors, crayons, and play dough. Teachers from each district develop the kits and apply for DCCF’s Kindergarten Readiness Toolkit Grant (dekalbccf.org/receive/grant-programs) to purchase kit contents.

Starting with kindergarten registration in early 2020, every toolkit distributed will also include a Farm Matching Game. If all districts and parochial schools in DeKalb County apply for the grant, roughly 1,100-1,200 families will receive toolkits.

All the cards will have fallen into place.