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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

McLean County Ag In The Classroom Goes Mobile With Schools Closed

Boys & Girls Club
Bridget Caldwell
McLean County Ag In the Classroom gave out 200 "ag bags" with lessons in agriculture.

The McLean County Ag in the Classroom program is finding new ways to engage students since classrooms are closed because of COVID-19.

Ben Hutley gives education materials to Addison Scaggs
Credit Bridget Caldwell
Ridgeview Elementary Principal Ben Hutley presents student Addison Scaggs with a bag of educational materials from McLean County Ag in the Classroom.

Ag literacy coordinator Bridget Caldwell is making more than 1,000 "ag bags." They include games and activities about agriculture and the outdoors and an “ag mag” that includes reading lessons about agriculture.

Caldwell said they give kids hands-on learning when they are doing much of their schoolwork on a computer.

“It’s something new and something different,” Caldwell said. “They don’t think it’s reading or math. They don’t realize they are learning while they are having fun.

“It gives the kids choices, so I think the kids feel like they are in charge of it.”

Caldwell has distributed the bags to the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, to elementary students in LeRoy and Ridgeview, and to several preschools. The bags are generally distributed as part of the school’s free and reduced-cost lunches, but Caldwell said volunteers have been finding other ways to get them to other children and parents who want them. For example, she gave 40 to the LeRoy Public Library for anyone to take.

“I’m just grateful I can give them something like that because not all the kids are on free lunch, nor do all the kids have internet,” she said. “So I’m trying to meet those different needs all in one package.”

Bottle used for subirrigation
Credit Bridget Caldwell
One of the lessons included in the McLean Coutny Ag in the Classroom ag bags teaches who subirrigation works.

She said she will make more for teachers and neighborhood groups that request them.

One of the activities involves subirrigation, where children put seeds in a plastic bottle with water and watch the plants grow.

“The roots are coming out of the drinking spout, they just automatically know to go for the water and they start growing through there,” So when you lift it out to see it, there are roots handing out of your drinking spout into the water eventually. It’s really fun for the kids to watch it grow.”

The bags Caldwell is sending out this week include an Earth Day bingo game and scavenger hunt.

Caldwell said she plans to distribute more of the bags in May since schools will remain closed through the rest of the school year.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.