A pilot program is being launched that will bring South Dakota's agricultural history front and center to fourth grade classrooms all across the state. Ground Works Midwest is introducing 'SD Road Trip: Exploring South Dakota’s Agriculture and History.'

Through the program students take a digital tour of a city and learn the history and the agricultural significance of the area. The students also complete science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons for each location.

Each location also features writing exercises encouraging students to think more deeply about the regions they're visiting. Ground Works Midwest is launching the program in 10 different cities with 12 more cities and towns being added this fall.

Cindy Heidelberger Larson, Associate Director of Ground Works Midwest, says South Dakota’s rich history is linked to the agriculture story and you can't separate the two. "It makes sense to develop a vehicle that can address both areas at once and bring agriculture into the classroom on a day-to-day basis. This way students learn about agriculture year-round and through a variety of methods. It’s really about students understanding their part in the agriculture story and how that impacts them.”

Sanford Health has also just agreed to enter into a three-year agreement with the program. It allows for the development of health and wellness information to be included from Sanford as the program continues to grow and take shape.

Mike Begeman is Vice President of Public Affairs and Corporate Administration at Sanford Health. “Agriculture is South Dakota’s largest industry and vitally important to the economy of our state and region. We are proud to invest in the educational aspect of this effort and look forward to our relationship with SD Ag in the Classroom.”

Following the pilot phase, plans are to open the program statewide to approximately 160 fourth grade classrooms in South Dakota.  Provided they get enough positive feedback, a similar curriculum for students in grades 5-8 may be created focusing on science lessons and careers in agriculture.

For more information on South Dakota Ag in the Classroom or the South Dakota Road Trip program, please contact Tim Olsen, Ground Works Midwest/ SD Ag in the Classroom executive director, at  tim@groundworksmidwest.org or call 507-227-9159.

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