Agricenter International, an urban research farm and education center in Memphis, Tenn., and Cotton Incorporated, are teaming up on a pilot project which has a goal of exponentially increasing the number of children Agricenter can educate about cotton and other crops.
Participants in the video streaming would log on to a Web site and register for the event. In the classroom, Roberts will talk about cotton and hand out various parts of the cotton plant for students to handle during the narrative.
Back in a cotton field at Agricenter, Bryan Marinez, information technology manager at Agricenter, will oversee the operation of two Sony high definition cameras, along with a General Dynamics 6000 ruggedized laptop with a cellular air card for accessing the Internet.
Children can touch parts of the cotton plant brought to the classroom to reinforce what Marinez captures on video.
During a recent test run at Westminster Academy in Shelby County, teachers were very impressed with the technology, said Roberts. “The image from the field was very sharp on the screen and speakers picked up the sounds from the field.”
One challenge of the project is to weave the story of cotton into the classroom curriculum. “We’re going to have to tailor some of the things we teach into what teachers want,” said John Charles Wilson, Agricenter president. “These are not ag schools.”
The idea is to use cotton to teach children elements of biology, history, or current events, according to Wilson. “We can talk about the seed first, and then get into the science of what happens to the seed in the soil. Then we go to the growth patterns of the plant, the differences between the cotyledons and a true leaf, a feeder root and a tap root.
“We can ease into no-till and why farmers are changing the way they do things. There’s so much that can fit our needs and fit the teachers’ needs, too. They’re teaching a lot about being green these days.”
Wilson is more than qualified to teach “green.” Prior to his role at Agricenter, Wilson produced cotton in Arlington, Tenn. While farming, he spearheaded the 4-county Beaver Creek Project, which enlisted the aid of several federal agencies to study the impacts of farming on water quality.
The history of cotton can be tied into American history, too, including its role as an industrial engine of the South. This could segue into how cotton is produced today, according to Roberts. “We would like to use digital video technology to demonstrate the progression of cotton production from dirt to shirt. The children would watch the seed go into the soil, grow, be picked, moduled, taken to the gin and delivered to a textile mill.