UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Poetry allows for the expression of emotions and ideas powerfully and succinctly. It can inspire new ways of thinking and answering questions. It is through Poetry that Hiram Larew hopes to inspire students and educators to tackle one of the greatest challenges of any society, food insecurity.
Through a $25,000 gift, Larew created the Global Teach Ag Network Enhancement Fund, which is designed to enrich the Ag Sciences Global program through support specifically for the Global Teach Ag Network. This annually supported fund will be used to provide professional development for educators, programmatic and staffing support and research for domestic and global initiatives.
Larew, a retired US Department of Agriculture employee, is a dedicated poet. Throughout his career in the federal government, Larew wrote and published Poetry but never combined Poetry with his work in Addressing food insecurity.
It wasn’t until he was asked to give a lecture at his alma mater, Oregon State University, about Poetry focusing on hunger that he realized there wasn’t much out there.
“There’s a lot of poetry about hunger of the heart, spirit and soul, but very little about hunger of the stomach,” said Larew. “Knowing that Poetry has been very effective in Addressing social issues, I thought I could try to Rouse Poets to write about hunger.”
Larew became connected to Penn State through Deanna Behring, College of Agricultural Sciences Assistant Dean and director of Ag Sciences Global, and Melanie Foster, associate teaching Professor of international agriculture and co-founder of Global Teach Ag Network, both of whom he met in Washington , DC
Foster and the network are focused on Educator professional development and empowerment.
“We’re trying to empower educators to teach about the world’s biggest problems,” said Foster. “We want our educators to have the tools to teach about these problems — like hunger and food insecurity — and inspire youth, the next generation, to take on these issues.”
Global Teach Ag Network offers both face-to-face Intensive professional development for teachers, as well as a digital community of practice known Global Learning in Agriculture Community, or GLAG, which increases accessibility and diversity. It’s a space where educators from around the world can connect with each other and share their ideas. More than 1,100 teachers from 40 countries and all 50 states participate in GLAG.
“Within GLAG there is a section called GLAG creates, which focuses on different teaching pedagogies, including drama, poetry and other arts,” explained Foster. “This is where Hiram, his Poetry and his financial support are having a profound impact. A past gift from him is helping fund the program manager for GLAG creates who is a full-time ag teacher in Pennsylvania.”
Larew said he considers Foster and her colleagues to be very brave and open-minded when it comes to the work they are trying to accomplish.
“Melanie and Daniel Foster invited a poet into a conversation about agriculture, an unusual conversation,” said Larew. “I realized in them that I had two good colleagues and that we could trust, respect and learn from one another.”
Larew saw that a challenge of the work within the Global Teach Ag Network is funding. He knew if he could help cover some of the costs associated with bringing Poetry into their work and encouraging teachers to use it in the K-12 Classroom specifically to address social issues, it would allow them to operate more freely and pursue opportunities and ideas that may not have been possible otherwise.
“It’s gratifying to me to be able to see what we might cook up as a result of the support I am providing,” said Larew. “I am also hopeful that my gift will leverage others to contribute. I’ll never be able to do all that’s needed, but if I can get the ball rolling and highlight it to other donors, then I’ll be making a positive impact.
“Overall, I believe that what Melanie and Daniel are doing to reach out to teachers is so incredibly important. They’re leaders in this arena of important work. It’s so cool to be able to bring the arts into this too,” he said.
“To say we are grateful is an understatement,” said Daniel Foster, associate professor and Global Teach Ag Network innovation specialist. “There are plenty who talk about action in this world, but, sadly, few who actually take action. This gift from Hiram is a great illustration of taking action – acknowledging that teachers matter – if we are going to solve the problems facing our world like global food security, it will require the help of the arts to Capture the hearts of students, inspiring them to change minds. GLAG creates helps this happen.”
Continued funding support is critical to ensuring that the innovative work of the Global Teach Ag Network, GLAG and GLAG creates continues and can grow to meet the challenges and demands of a changing educational environment. To learn more about the program, visit the Global Teach Ag Network website or contact Melanie Foster. You can also support the program through a gift to the newly created Global Teach Ag Network Enhancement Fund.
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