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International Year of Pulses Brings Efforts into the Classroom (PCN Summer 2016) JUN 24 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Pulse Canada

The International Year of Pulses (IYP) is an opportunity to increase Canadian consumer demand for and awareness of pulses. Along with a promotional campaign targeting today’s decision-makers and influencers with the message that pulses are healthy, nutritious and sustainable, the Canadian pulse industry is targeting the consumers of the future.

In January 2016, IYP partner Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) Canada, launched an educational program focused on pulses for primary and secondary schools. AITC Canada is a non-profit organization supported by provincial chapters dedicated to enhancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation for agriculture among Canadian youth.

The AITC Canada pulse education program consists of six lesson plans linking pulses to science, health and nutrition, social studies and home economics. So far, these lesson plans have been implemented in nearly 300 Canadian schools, reaching 18,000 students and 1,200 educators.

“Because they are affordable, good for the environment and have so many health benefits, pulses lend themselves well to a variety of grades and subjects,” said Johanne Ross, AITC Canada’s Executive Director. “It’s been amazing watching the students as they learn the farm to fork story of pulses and it’s really rewarding to see students eating and enjoying a food that many of them haven’t tried before.”

Pulses were also in the national spotlight during Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week (CALW), which took place from February 28 to March 5 in classrooms across Canada. During CALW, schools in several provinces received visits from local pulse growers and IYP was highlighted on AITC-Canada’s social media channels.

In addition to using the lesson plans created by the national AITC organization, provincial AITC organizations and their partners are finding unique ways to engage schools in their provinces in the celebration of IYP. To date activities have spanned the country, reaching as far as Newfoundland and Labrador, where six schools have received presentations on pulses. In Nova Scotia, a chili tasting session was held for over 400 students and library patrons at the Halifax Central Library.

Further west, two professors from Brock University in Ontario gave a lecture to local high school students on the relationship between climate change and agriculture that highlighted pulses and the positive contribution they make to the environment. The lecture was live-streamed in classrooms across the country and viewed by over 900 students.

In Manitoba, students received visits from local pulse growers as well as from Kid Bean, Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers’ six foot tall kidney bean mascot. Kid Bean will travel the province throughout 2016 educating people of all ages on the benefits of pulses to our health and the environment.

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, 200 fourth grade students also had the opportunity to learn about pulses at the Regina Ag Adventure, held in March at Regina’s Science Centre.

Alberta’s schools have also been buzzing about pulses. Throughout the spring of 2016, pulse seeds were distributed to 165 schools through the Little Green Thumbs Program. Funded by Ag for Life, the program helps students of all ages learn about food production through indoor gardens.

In March, the “Made in Alberta Breakfast” took place at Beau Meadow elementary school in Beaumont. The event was an opportunity to connect more than 500 students with Alberta producers to learn more about modern farming, animal care and local crops. Alberta Pulse Growers Chair Allison Ammeter entertained the students with a skit highlighting the importance of pulses to several different groups of people including scientists, doctors, farmers, teachers, parents, and children.

“The opportunity to reach an entire school of children, their teachers, and indirectly their parents, with our positive pulse message was amazing,” said Ammeter.

The momentum behind many IYP initiatives like AITC Canada’s program continues to increase Canadian consumers’ awareness of pulses and their benefits.