Integrating Farming Activities with Responsible Modernization (iFarm)
Farmscape Solutions’ iFarm Program builds community connections using sustainable farming and environmental quality as a backdrop. By bringing together K-12 teachers, students, undergraduates, farmers, after-school programs, and higher education institutions, we take a community-based approach to motivate teachers, students and parents to become the innovators, and create a learning environment where they can apply their innovations to solve the challenges society is facing today. By interweaving sustainability with agriculture and technology, students gain hands-on experience using 21st century tools and age-old cultivation techniques to increase community food security and environmental quality, while being given the opportunity to cultivate an entrepreneurial culture within their local economy.
Here’s how we do it:
Students obtain product ingredients by working with local farms and gardens. The ingredients are prepared and packaged for market. Students sell their products at their local Farmer's Market. Each community student group works together to develop a name for their product and design their package label. Proceeds from each community product are reinvested in their local iFarm program activities. For example, in Tuskegee, Alabama, we are working with Safe Haven, a local after school program, to prepare a local tea blend to sell at the Farmer’s Market. Blueberries and blueberry leaves will be harvested from a Shady Grove Blueberry Patch, a local farm modeled after Booker T. Whatley's design in his book, "How to Make $100,000 off of 25 acres". Josie Gbadamosi, the proprietor, is offering a pick and share program, where student participants pick blueberry leaves and blueberries, giving half of their harvest to the farm, and keeping half for their project. Students will also cultivate and harvest hibiscus and ginger at the Tuskegee University Medicinal Plant Garden. University faculty will help facilitate student activities for cultivating and harvesting hibiscus and ginger.
Gardening and Environmental Monitoring
Working with community gardens and school gardens, teachers and undergraduate students are certified to monitor Soil Health (physical, chemical and biological monitoring), Water quality (chemical, bacteriological, and biological monitoring) and weather. With the guidance of teachers and undergraduates, K-12 students will learn how to monitor soil health, water quality and weather in their gardens. This way students, teachers and undergraduates gain a better understanding of growing a healthy garden, how to quantitatively monitor soil, water and weather, and how to keep records of their data. Undergraduates also gain experience volunteering in the community and K-12 students gain inspiration from the undergraduates.
Innovation Design Labs
K-12 students will work with undergraduates to build their own computers using Raspberry Pi and accessory components (keyboard, monitor and mouse). They will learn basic Python coding language to make their own computer applications. Students will have access to a 3-D printer and supplies. They will learn basic drafting and CAD to design their own tangible innovations. Student teams will use these skills, along with what they learn in the gardening and environmental quality activities to to develop innovations designed to alleviate a given societal challenge. One challenge will be given each year, and over the course of that school year, K-12 students will work with their teachers and undergraduate mentors to design and construct a prototype of their idea.
Carver Grand Challenge Annual Competition
Each Student team will enter their innovation into a competition with other participating schools. The competition will be held at the beginning of summer break on the campus of Tuskegee University. Each team will supply a 5- minute video presentation of their innovation to be viewed at the competition. They will also display their innovation and be interviewed by the judges. A panel of judges will rate each entry, and innovations will be awarded for: (1) best innovation, (2) best video presentation, (3) best prototype rendering, and (4) best interview. This will allow students the opportunity to develop multimedia and public relations skills, in addition to the Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics (STEAM) skills gathered over the course or their participation in the iFarm program.