Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Education

Join the Bat Squad and Pull for Bats during Bat Week

Jennifer Redell with a straw-coloured fruit bat

Jennifer Redell, a conservation biologist/cave and mine specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, gives a close up and personal look at a straw-coloured fruit bat, the most widely distributed of the African fruit bats. Bats fulfill many important ecosystem functions, such as pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds during their flights. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bats have quite the list of positive effects in our world, from the billions of dollars they save in pesticides to natural pollination and seed spreading. Bats eat about one-half of their body weight in insects each night.

We need bats.

In honor of our furry, flying mammal friends, consider pulling for bats during Bat Week from Oct. 24-31. You can make a difference, whether you get a group together to literally pull invasive plants to help improve habitat and food for bats or figuratively “pull” for bats by sharing why they are important to our ecosystem with your friends and family. And, the great news is that you don’t have to be an adult to help bats. Read more »

Youth Embracing Agricultural Innovation Grows a Three Leaf Clover into 4-H

A group of people near computers

Since its creation more than 100 years ago, 4-H has expanded its focus from the field to the lab to keep pace with developments in agricultural techniques and technologies. Photo courtesy of 4-H.

National 4-H Week happens each October, a time when nearly six million youth celebrate their participation in 4-H.  Every year, clubs around the country showcase the great things that 4-H offers young people and highlight the incredible things they do to make a positive impact in their communities.

The 4-H clover is one of the most recognized icons in the country, but it wasn’t always that way.  Like most things, it grew – this case from three leaves.

The seeds of 4-H were planted at the start of the 20th century by several adults in different states who were concerned about young people. Clark County, Ohio, claims credit as being the birthplace of 4-H, although the initial groups were called “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Club.” Read more »

US Forest Service Helps Educate Students at World’s Largest Conservation Event

Forest Service staff with members of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife teaching children

Forest Service staff were joined by members of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife to teach children about the importance of native plant and animal species to healthy forests and watersheds during Student Day at the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress. (U.S. Forest Service/Denise Adamic)

Approximately 180 middle and high school students joined Smokey Bear, U.S. Forest Service staff and a host of other conservation-focused professionals from around the world for Student Day at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center in Honolulu.

The students were invited to learn about natural resources careers and interact with professionals during the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest and most democratic recurring conservation event in the world. The event draws thousands of participants, including heads of state, business leaders, top scientists, educators and artists. Read more »

Back to School with Student-Led Smarter Lunchrooms

Fruits and vegetables in boxes

Colorful displays highlight nutritious choices in school lunchrooms.

Teenagers at several schools across the country are working together with school nutrition staff to make changes to the school cafeteria.  Informed by Smarter Lunchrooms’ research, these students are promoting healthful foods to their peers and having a say in menu offerings.  Team Nutrition Training Grants help fund a number of school activities that engage students in nutrition education and wellness activities.  To learn more about Team Nutrition Training Grant activities, visit

The following guest blog describes how Iowa high school students worked with school nutrition staff to alter the way fruits and vegetables are offered in their school cafeteria. Following the changes, other students have taken notice of the new colorful displays, creative menu names, and signs promoting the salad bars. Reading their story, you’ll learn about innovative ways to engage youth in school wellness efforts.

By Carrie Scheidel, MPH, Team Nutrition Co-Director, Iowa Department of Education

As teachers prepared their classrooms for the new school year, school nutrition professionals and students in Iowa were working to make their lunchrooms smarter.   A partnership between the University of Iowa Public Policy Center – College of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, and five Iowa high schools worked to apply Smarter Lunchrooms’ techniques to make healthy choices easier at school. Read more »

New SNAP E&T Initiatives Aim to Help SNAP Participants Find Jobs

Adult education class raising hands to ask questions

SNAP E&T provides in-demand job training and skills to low-income and low-skilled individuals.

Getting a good job these days takes more than good intentions because today’s jobs require a higher level of skills than ever before.  This is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T), administered by states across the country, has such an important role to play in helping SNAP recipients gain the skills they need to find and keep good jobs.  This is also why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to supporting this effort.

USDA demonstrated that commitment in two new initiatives launched just this week, the SNAP E&T Learning Academy and a new website for the innovative SNAP to Skills Project, led by the Food and Nutrition Service. The Academy breaks new ground, as a first-ever opportunity that will help address an identified need. You see, though SNAP E&T programs operate across America, we’ve found that there is an opportunity for further sharing of best practices and lessons learned by developing resources that spread the knowledge base throughout the country. The two new projects launched this week will use a “train-the-trainer” model to create new leadership capacity to build the next generation of SNAP E&T programs. Read more »

MyPlate, MyState Helps You Bring the Joy of Local Foods to the Classroom

MyPlate, MyState Pennsylvania sample coloring sheet

MyPlate, MyState activities, including this sample coloring sheet, can bring the joy of local foods into the classroom year-round.

Hello Teachers of America!

Are you looking for resources for your classes that combine topics such as food and nutrition, farmers and farmers markets, and your state’s agriculture?

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion (CNPP) – the group responsible for MyPlate – recently launched MyPlate, MyState – a mini-campaign that encourages consumers to personalize their healthy eating style with local and regional foods and flavors. MyPlate, MyState is part of MyPlate, MyWins, a consumer education campaign designed to help Americans find healthy eating styles that work for them through small changes that can be maintained over time. MyPlate, MyState brings home – literally and figuratively – the messages of MyPlate, MyWins by personalizing eating styles with local flavors, local foods, and local recipes. Read more »