Collective Effort

She wanted to have the students do more than simply collect peanut butter jars for food pantries low on the staple. She decided to bring agriculture into the classroom at Windermere Elementary located in the land-locked Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

“I took a service learning class and it changed my way of thinking about teaching. There are so many layers you can add to a service project like math and literacy. What a great and easy way to help out and bring more meaning to (the service project) by incorporating it into the classroom lessons,” Meyer said.

Her lesson plans were flexible enough that she could easily change them mid-year and add in the history of peanut butter, facts about the southern crop and recipes for making peanut butter. The challenge, she discovered, was that she knew little about growing peanuts or making peanut butter.

“I wanted to show them all about peanut butter but then discovered I didn’t know anything. I decided we could all learn together,” said Meyer, who has 24 students in her class. She found valuable resources on various Farm Bureau websites and checked out books at the library.

During the weeks that the students collected peanut butter jars, they learned all about the crop while in the computer lab and the classroom. Besides reading books to the students about peanuts and peanut butter, Meyer incorporated the crop into math lessons by having the students predict how many jars were in collection boxes. At the end of the project, the students were able to rattle off answers to questions about peanuts and peanut butter.

“How many peanuts are in a 12-ounce jar?” Meyer asked. “About 520,” the classroom responded.

“Who is the father of peanut butter” she asked. “George Washington Carver,” replied the students.

The most astonishing fact? Georgia produces almost 2 billion pounds of peanuts every year, almost half of the United States’ peanut crop. While Ohio doesn’t grow peanuts, it still has a strong connection with the industry. One of the largest peanut butter companies is J.M. Smucker Co., maker of Jif and Smucker’s peanut butter, and is located in Orrville in northeast Ohio.

At the end of the project, the two dozen students had a wealth of information about peanuts and collected dozens of peanut butter jars for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, one of the many food pantries that Ohio Farm Bureau has supported over the years.

“The students really took ownership of this. It was great to see them be so excited about peanuts,” Meyer said.