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Farmers empowering rural schools -- STEM grant program gives ND farmers chance to aid schools

Farm kid in a field. Stock

The 2019 America's Farmers campaign has kicked off with the Grow Rural Education program's launch, which provides North Dakota farmers with the opportunity to nominate local rural public schools for grants of up to $25,000 to enhance their school's science, technology, engineering and math curriculums.

Having awarded more than $530,000 to North Dakota schools and more than $51 million to worthy organizations and causes since 2010, the America's Farmers organization, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, is the philanthropic arm of Bayer.

"We are back for another year to strengthen farming communities across the country," Erin Glarner, Public Relations Lead, Customer Advocacy at Bayer Crop Science, said. "Farmers will once again have the chance to nominate their local public school district for the chance to receive $25,000 grants to enhance STEM education through the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program."

In 2019, the organization plans to award more than $2.3 million to local rural school districts, giving farmers the opportunity to make a difference in their community by contributing to local student's success.

Farmers can nominate their school district by visiting www.Americasfarmers.com or by calling toll-free to 1-877-267-3332.

"Bayer is honored to support rural communities across the United States through the America's Farmers programs, and specifically Grow Rural Education," Lisa Safarian, commercial operations head, Bayer Crop Science North America, said in a release about the program. "What's better is the role farmers' play in helping award the grants to their local schools, directly fostering the next generation of leaders in the industry and in their communities."

Previous winners include an Idaho school for students with hearing and vision loss that purchased a high-tech piece of equipment called an augmented sandbox, which allowed students to learn about erosion, topography modeling and water ecosystems. A middle school in Illinois used part of a Grow Rural Education grant to purchase a 3-D printer which they used to build a prosthetic arm for a farmer who lost his arm in a farming accident.

Because farmers know the needs of their communities, the America's Farmers programs rely on them to help identify the most worthy causes. For the Grow Rural Education program specifically, farmers nominate a local public school. The process takes less than five minutes and has made a lasting impact in countless classrooms across rural America.

"At each winning school, the teachers, students and, oftentimes, community members have worked together to make STEM programs more engaging," Glarner said. "One of the many success stories of the Grow Rural Education program includes Ballard County School District in Western Kentucky, which used the program grant funds to upgrade the technology throughout its classrooms to enhance its health science curriculum. By providing access to these resources, Ballard County School District is better preparing its students for various career paths."

Farmers have until April 1, to nominate their local public school district. After the school district receives a nomination, the Monsanto Fund will notify the district and encourage administrators and teachers to design a grant that enhances STEM education for their students.

Local rural schools were keen on the opportunities such a proposition would bring to their STEM programs.

"We would look to boost our upper level chemistry and physics programs by buying more equipment for our robotics program," Gary Wilz, superintendent of the Killdeer Public Schools, said. "That type of money for our program would be a dream, and in a broad-brush sense would really go a long way toward supporting our Science Olympiad program. Obviously, I would seek input from our science and mathematics departments on how we could best use such a grant."

Robotics seem to be a favorite of North Dakota rural schools, Mott-Regent's plans also included potential robotics program upgrades should they receive the grant—although, if nominated would potentially include more in-depth dream projects.

"We are definitely interested in opportunities like these, that would otherwise be impossible for us to do with our budget," Willie Tebow, superintendent of the Mott-Regent Public Schools, said. "The abilities of these kids to do the things they do with those robots by using just their cell phones is amazing. I know that with purchasing the robotics needed for our STEM program that even $10,000 is a great start, so $25,000 would be awesome."

Nominated school districts would have until April 15 to submit a grant application describing their project. A panel of qualified teachers will review applications and narrow down to the finalists.

The program's Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, will then select the winning school districts.

"The landscape within our industry is continually evolving and advancing, creating more methods in which students can learn," said Al Mitchell, vice president of corporate engagement, Bayer, about the process in a release. "Through the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program, we aim to help transform classrooms to ensure students are given the chance to learn the newest STEM curriculums available."

Since Grow Rural Education began in 2011, it has awarded more than $16 million to more than 900 school districts in rural communities across the United States.

To learn more about the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program, or the Grow Ag Leaders program which offers $1,500 scholarships for students pursuing an education in agriculture-related fields, visit AmericasFarmers.com or follow along on Facebook at facebook.com/AmericasFarmers.