MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (February 8, 2021) Compeer Financial's Fund for Rural America has awarded $25,000 to the Monmouth College Educational Studies PLACE Site, through a MORE for Agriculture Grant.
An acronym for Partnerships Linking Agriculture, Community and Education, the PLACE Site program seeks to be a catalyst for agriculture-based educational partnerships and curriculum. It scales up work that began at the College's Educational Farm and Garden in 2019 with another grant.
"We received a $10,000 grant from Compeer last year, so this grant shows their confidence and trust in what we're trying to achieve," said Monmouth educational studies professor Craig Vivian. "With this grant, we want to build up the infrastructure at our farm and garden for education and curriculum. One way we plan to do that is to furnish the new geodesic dome with some different tools and technologies."
Doing so would take the farm, which is located a half-mile east of campus, from a field trip destination to a site where all-day learning could take place.
"The idea is that students can spend the majority of their school day out there," said Vivian. "It won't just be a 30-minute field trip and then head back to school. We'll be able to cover a lot of areas with them, such as biology, math and literature. The math could come from things like measurements and statistics and tracking things like rate of growth. The literature could be reading about agricultural issues that we're facing locally. It will be a nice, full curriculum that is housed out at the farm, with plenty of tools they can use, such as microscopes and tools to observe, measure and analyze the natural world we find at the farm."
Through presentations, digital and on-site workshops, and social media outreach, the PLACE Site aims to develop four features: an agricultural curriculum for the community and students from kindergarten through high school; spaces for the public to interact with agriculture; an interdisciplinary network of experts; and a platform to highlight the community's agricultural experiences.
Vivian's hope is that the program will serve as a model of agricultural education and engagement for other rural communities in the region.
"I'm really big on agrarian philosophy, and this type of learning, specifically, helps students think about the world and their place in it through the culture of agriculture," said Vivian. "It also provides a way to connect public schooling to Monmouth College and to connect the city and College."
Vivian's department colleague Jenni Dickens and Compeer Financial team member Shane Kaiser agreed with Vivian about the importance of connections.
"This grant will give our community's students an unprecedented opportunity to learn how agriculture connects us all," said Dickens, who serves as the educational studies department's director of partnerships and initiatives. "Even better, it will give them the space and resources to change their community for the better, starting now, through the vital, common thread of agriculture."
Kaiser said: "The PLACE site provides critical hands-on experiences and interactive learning that can only take place outside of the classroom. The site has a great potential to impact students of all ages in the Monmouth community and help them connect with agriculture in unique ways."
Now in its second year, Compeer Financial's MORE for Agriculture Grant supports innovative programs that encompass four qualities:
• Mission: Aligns with the mission of Compeer Financial, enriches agriculture and rural communities.
• Opportunity: Provides a new opportunity for clients or future clients, fills a known void in agricultural and rural markets, is a new and innovative project.
• Replication: Can be replicated by others to serve different geographic areas, with the ability for future collaboration.
• Evolution: Evolves over time to create a better future for agriculture and rural America.
Compeer Financial is a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. The $23.7 billion organization provides loans, leases, risk-management, and other financial services throughout 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Compeer Financial is the third-largest cooperative of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of lending institutions supporting agriculture and rural communities with reliable, consistent credit and financial services.