Table grape growers in California are making what a commodity group leader calls “a huge difference” in the efforts of teachers who are educating the next generation, some of whom are the children of farmers and their employees.
The 52 school grants of up to $750 apiece — totaling $39,000 — that the grower-funded California Table Grape Commission recently announced are a way for farmers to “give back collectively,” says commission president Kathleen Nave.
“As a community they do a lot of work through the commission,” she says, noting that the panel also offers scholarships for field workers and youngsters who want a career in agriculture.
More than 9,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade will have an opportunity to take part in projects as a result of the “Innovations in Teaching” grant program, which was started in 1993. Schools in the prime table grape growing regions of the San Joaquin and Coachella valleys submit projects for consideration in the areas of agriculture, math, science, art, health, and technology. The projects are being implemented in the current academic year.
In one project, grant funds will provide science and art materials to help kindergarteners at Evergreen Elementary School in Bakersfield learn how plants and insects work together. In another, third- through sixth graders at Kennedy/Wilson Elementary School in Dinuba will restore and maintain three downtown planter boxes in conjunction with lessons about gardening, farming, and horticulture.
Students at Roosevelt High School in Fresno will develop a demonstration garden featuring water-wise plants and smart-irrigation technology, while juniors and seniors at Vista High School in Bakersfield will purchase fruit trees, lumber, and materials for a year-round garden, according to the commission.
At Ewing Elementary School in Fresno, fifth-graders will incubate, care for, and monitor chicken or quail eggs while learning about the egg and poultry market, as well as habitat, food, ecosystem, prey, and predators.
Several schools are using robotic kits to teach students about laws of physics, math and engineering, and Central High School in Fresno and Porterville High School are doing projects to prepare students for college and careers.
“Every year on our website there’s a call for grants, and there’s an application process,” Nave says. “We send out notifications and teachers submit directly. There is an evaluation process, selections are made, and teachers are notified. The process takes place in the fall, and grants are given in the spring.”
Many projects this year are geared toward helping others, she notes. For instance, in a project at Clovis Elementary School, fourth graders are growing flowers in their classroom to give to mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers at a local assisted living facility on Mother’s Day. Several other projects are aimed at helping people with disabilities. “Teachers are trying to impress upon their students to give back to others,” Nave says.
The school grants are one of several community service-oriented programs undertaken each year by the commission, which is mainly funded by grower assessments of 11.5 cents for every 19 pounds of grapes. For more than 30 years, the commission has offered grants of up to $20,000 over four years for farmworkers or their children who wish to continue their education at a California university or community college.
More than 100 such scholarships have been given over the years and used to help fund studies in areas such as human biology, civil engineering, biochemistry, and culinary arts, according to the commission.
For more information on the “Innovation in Teaching” grants, go to www.grapesfromcalifornia.com/community-outreach/