Wisconsin Soybean Farm Visit Inspires Urban Fourth-Graders May 23rd, 2014

Date: May 23, 2014
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Linda Funk
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Wisconsin Soybean Farm Visit Inspires Urban Fourth-Graders


Madison, WI, May 23, 2014—With a scent of spring in the air, surrounded by moist soil and soybean seedlings, farm-to-table classroom agriculture lessons naturally come alive. That was fourth grade teacher Trinette Stillman’s premise, and she was right. After students from her class at Holy Family Parish School in Whitefish Bay visited Mike Cerny’s Sharon, WI, soybean farm on May 19, they developed a taste for roasted soynuts, and came away with an enhanced appreciation for foods grown in Wisconsin.

Students also were amazed by the equipment and technology Mike Cerny uses, Stillman says. “They loved it when he showed them how math impacts his job. The computer tracking and autopilot of the tractor were also surprising.”  Cerny, president of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, offered students an opportunity to observe plant life cycles and meet some of the people responsible for growing and producing the foods they eat. He answered student questions about irrigation, how seeds are planted without damaging them, and how many seeds are planted and harvested.

Bob Karls, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, provided soy snacks during the student visit. “By far, the big hit was soybean soynuts,” says Trinette Stillman. “They loved them, and continue talking about them. Some students took some home to share, and asked their parents to buy them. One student saved all of hers to take home and share with her cousins, who are coming to visit.”

Stillman was inspired by reading the soybean curriculum book, Coolbean the Soybean, written by Shawn Conley, Ph.D., with Judy Mannes and Marcia Rehns. Stillman knew the agricultural topic could bring math, vocabulary and science lessons alive for her fourth grade students. The book covers many fourth grade standards, including identifying plant characteristics, exploring life cycles, scientific method and reproduction of plants. Distributed to fourth grade classrooms by the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, the book is part of the board’s initiative to create urban-rural partnerships that educate urban children about food and agriculture.

When her students from Holy Family Parish School—part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee—moved out of their classroom into the fields of Mike Cerny’s farm, they learned firsthand about where their food comes from and increased their appreciation for agriculture. In class, Trinette Stillman’s students used Coolbean the Soybean activities to review the photosynthesis process, learn about pollination and create a cycle picture of soybean germination. In addition, they are cultivating two soybean plants, using scientific methods to determine which soil will provide better growth.

“We continue to observe the soybeans we are growing,” Stillman says. “In a couple of weeks, we have an end-of-the-year celebration. We typically bring in food to share that is made in Wisconsin. This year, we will also add any food made with soybeans.”

For details about classroom materials to increase agricultural literary, and information about Wisconsin-grown soybeans and their uses, visit the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board website at www.wisoybean.org.


The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB) is a grassroots, farmer-led organization that leads efforts in soybean research and the expansion of soybean market opportunities. Established in 1983 as part of a Wisconsin-mandated checkoff, the board works every day to maximize the profitability of Wisconsin soybean producers. It builds soybean demand, creates new uses for soybeans, and focuses on soybean disease research. WSMB is committed to providing statewide soy education and outreach programs that inform consumers about the benefits of soy. It offers a comprehensive soy curriculum for educators, and partners with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom to provide Soybean Science Kits and lessons that increase agricultural literacy.