If you see it, you can be it
Activity book features women in agriculture, science
As we celebrate Manitoba Farm Women’s Week (November 15-21), a special resource called “Way to Grow!” is now available to help girls and young women envision themselves in the many careers that support agriculture and food.
“If you see it – you can be it. This phrase says so much, and it needs to be said to girls as well as women,” said Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, Professor in Soil Science at the University of Manitoba and the former Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chair for Women in Science and Engineering.
The goal of introducing younger female audience to role models in the agriculture sector was achieved through the development of a 44-page activity book. Sixteen women in varied careers share a brief description of their work and a fun memory from their childhood. Each section also includes “Did You Know” facts and a puzzle, game or quiz.
Throughout Farenhorst’s two terms in the Chair position, she and her team have endeavoured to raise the profile of women in the STEM or science, technology, engineering and math fields and to create opportunities to empower and enable women through mentorship and networking programs.
Project coordinator Kimberley Stefaniuk helped guide the development of the content of the book, primarily designed for children aged 6 to 10.
“We wanted girls and young women to really ‘see’ the diversity of women in the ag sector, women who are professors and researchers, executive directors, financial specialists, members of government, and so on. Images were an important component of the creative element,” she said.
“Then we wanted our young audience to realize that these women played games, collected rocks, built forts, rode bikes, grew vegetable gardens with their grandmother, so they each shared a memory of when they were younger.”
The two sections which bookend the document are of particular note. An introductory article by Susan Wade describes the impact of First Nations women on advancing agriculture practices. First Nations women responsible for planting and harvesting gained experience and knowledge, much like a scientist, to replant the strongest crops, which resulted in crops like corn thriving in Canada.
Also of note is a concluding profile of Ella Cora Hind, Manitoba’s first female agricultural journalist and a women’s rights activist, whose perseverance helped establish her own remarkable career and created paths for women who have followed.
“Although we know that the reading level might be above our identified age group, we hope that the featured pieces might be read to the audience, and also create the opportunity to discuss the women’s accomplishments,” said Stefaniuk.
Farenhorst has received several emails from parents and grandparents who said they looked forward to sharing the activity book with their young readers and expressed delight in comparing some of the role models’ experiences to their lives. She added, “there is always that extra excitement when the first name of one of the role models matches the name of a child”.
The Way to Grow resource, which is available in English and French, has been shared with organizations such as the UM’s Bruce D. Campbell Farm & Food Discovery Centre and Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba, and with programs engaged in science education. Schools, organizations or groups wishing to have print copies can learn more at the Way to Grow website.
The project was funded through the Government of Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chairs program for Women in Science and Engineering, and supported by Manitoba’s Agriculture and Resource Development.
“This book is to let all females – daughters, mothers, sisters, grandmothers – and their family members – brothers, sons, fathers and grandfathers – know that opportunities exist for women in all areas of the agriculture sector, and also to say we are also standing by to encourage them, welcome them, and open the door to let them ‘see’ what they can be,” said Farenhorst.