Grants and Teacher Awards

Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award

The Velma Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture was established by the Clark Family in 2019. Trained as a nurse, Velma Clark found her calling as a farmer. While her husband worked, she milked cows and raised hens, delivering eggs in Baltimore City. Passionate about ag education and supporting the ag industry, she raised her children in 4-H programs and was active in dairy industry organizations.  

The purpose of this award is to recognize a Maryland teacher for his/her excellent job in incorporating agriculture into his/her core curriculum. Recognizing that agriculture forms the backbone for our daily lives, MAEF celebrates those teachers who effectively integrate agriculture into their classrooms.


We are now accepting nominations for the 2023 Velma Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture!

Do you know a teacher, who is not an ag teacher, that is incorporating agriculture into their curriculum/ classroom? Then use the button below to nominate them today!

Meet Our 2022 Excellence in Teaching About Ag Award Recipient!

The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Inc. (MAEF) has selected Erin Burrell, a Kindergarten teacher at Ashburton Elementary, Montgomery County Public Schools for the 2021 Velma Clark Excellence in Teaching About Ag Award.  This award honors one Maryland teacher that exemplifies dedication in engaging students in agricultural education experiences in non-agricultural curricula.

In the Spring of 2021, Erin Burrell established and launched a six-week Virtual Green Thumb Program for approximately 40 students in grades K-5 during distance learning. During the Ashburton Local Summer School Program in July 2021, Burrell created and taught a weeklong Science and Gardening Course to each K-5 class for four weeks, totaling 165 students. Continuing their agriculture education efforts, Burrell founded the Green Thumb afterschool club for students grades 3-5 and has managed the school’s courtyard garden year-round since 2017. Currently, Burrell coordinates the Ashburton Garden Mentor Program with seven local high school students who in turn earn Student Service-Learning volunteer hours. The Kindergarten classes at Ashburton Elementary school participated in the local RentaCoop program from 2016-2018. This program highlighted embryology and chicken care in the classroom. Burrell’s efforts continue beyond youth agriculture education as she trained staff in June 2019 on ways in which their students interact with the garden in different and meaningful ways through the Professional Learning Community.

Ashburton Elementary School Principal, Greg Mullenholz said “Erin Burrell is an outstanding educator who has brought the world of agriculture to the students in her classroom and those across the school. Her enthusiasm for and dedication to agriculture and the environment has transformed our school and the opportunities provided to our staff and students.” Burrell has a strong passion for teaching and learning about conservation, environmental stewardship and gardening. Focusing specifically on her work with the Virtual Green Thumb Club project, Burrell continued her efforts with the Green Thumb Gardening Program without the ability to physically access the school garden during the 2020-2021 school year. Virtually, Burrell was able to promote cultivating plants, spending time outdoors, and eating a healthy diet for students in grades K-5. This Virtual Green Thumb Club was funded with the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s Urban Garden Grant. The school garden continues to be a source of community pride and showcases the dedication Burrell and her fellow staff and students have in caring for and maintaining the garden. Burrell’s reach continues beyond the walls of Ashburton Elementary through participation by parents and alumni in watering, weeding, and harvesting throughout the summer months. Furthermore, Burrell secured over $10,000 in grant funding over the last five years for the garden.

With the award,  Erin Burrell  receives a $500 classroom stipend and a trip to the National Ag in the Classroom Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York in June 2022.  As our 2021 winner, she will be nominated for the 2023 National Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award, sponsored by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Agriculture in the Classroom. This competitive national award recognizes exceptional teachers selected at the state level for their successful efforts in teaching agricultural concepts.

LETS GRO Together Grant


The goal of the “LETS GRO” Grant is to increase the understanding and appreciation of agriculture in the lives of students, especially those living in urban areas. School and community garden projects help meet this goal through hands-on gardening and classroom activities that meet Common Core, Environmental Literacy, and NGSS standards. The “LETS GRO” Grant is ideal for any project that offers students direct experience with growing, harvesting, and preparing fresh foods while learning about concepts in botany, nutrition, environmental stewardship, and engineering practices. A few examples where these concepts can be applied include outdoor school gardens, in-class plant science activities, hydroponics and vertical greenhouse projects, unique irrigation systems, nutrition and food preparation with fresh produce and many more.

MAEF will be offering up to $500 for the creation, expansion, or maintenance of any applicable “LETS GRO” project. Eligible applicants include K-12 teachers of public and private schools, nonprofit organizations and other private institutions, who have plant science educations as a primary goal. The deadline for grant application submissions is March 24, 2023, and must be submitted through the online application, unless other arrangements have been made for submission. Funding awards will be announced by May 1, 2023. If you have any questions about the grant process, please email Ben Brown at


Before filling out your application, please see this document for some tips at tricks for selecting your garden: Garden and Growing Kit Tips


Questions you will need to prepare answer to in advance for the application. Please type these in a document first and then copy and paste into the application (Online forms are temperamental sometimes, and we don’t want your answers to be deleted):

1. Please briefly describe you project and how it is related to gardening and growing:

2. What are the educational goals of the project?

3. How will youth be involved in the project?

4. How will teachers or community members be involved with the project?

5. Describe your project in terms of size, location, types of plants or products and accessibility to water, sunlight or other resources. Will any impervious surfaces be reduced with this project?

6. How will the project be integrated or related to classroom curriculum? How will you align it with Common Core, NGSS, and Environmental Literacy Standards?

7. How will the garden make connections to Maryland farms, the environment, food systems, and nutrition?

8. How will the project be maintained throughout the year, including summer? Can you set up a service-learning component to the project?

9. How will any harvested products be used?

10. Will the garden project be publicized? How can MAEF assist?

11. What other types of funding will help pay and sustain your garden?

Urban Garden Grant Example Budget Form

You may make a copy of this document and upload it with your application.

Please fill out a copy of the application at the link below. If you have any questions, please e-mail Ben Brown at

Grant Deadline: March 24, 2023

Please check back here for updates to this grant opportunity.

If you have any questions, please contact Executive Director, Susanne Richards at

Meet MAEF’s Past Velma Clark Excellence in Teaching About Ag Award Recipients!

Bethany Thornton, 2021 Recipient of The Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award

The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Inc. (MAEF) has selected Bethany Thornton, a librarian at Billingsley Elementary School of Charles County Public Schools for the 2021 Velma Clark Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award. This award is given to a Maryland educator who has demonstrated dedication in providing meaningful learning opportunities for their students to understand the importance of agriculture in our daily lives.

Since attending her first Ag in the Classroom Conference in 2015, Thornton has been a passionate advocate for teaching about agriculture in and out of the classroom. Throughout her years as an educator, she has consistently used MAEF and National Ag in the Classroom learning resources to teach children and adults about how agriculture plays a role in their daily lives using “easily adaptable and engaging” agriculture-based lessons.

“Helping kids understand where their food comes from is really what drives my passion for agricultural education. Charles County has such a rich agricultural history, and I really try to focus on using our local history and agricultural commodities as a framework for what I teach. Building on students’ prior knowledge of agriculture through hands-on activities and experiences allows them to identify why agriculture is important to them on a personal level.  As a librarian, I’m able to see my students’ knowledge and appreciation of agriculture grow as they move from one year to the next. It’s really amazing,” says Thornton.

Thornton attributes the interdisciplinarity and adaptability of agriculture to her success of using agriculture as a vehicle to teach students about the world around them. “One of my favorite activities is to read How to Make Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. It’s a great way to introduce students to new cultures and commodities from around the globe. Agriculture is just so diverse. You can teach anything with it!”

MAEF is happy to be recognizing Mrs. Thornton for her outstanding contributions to ag education! Congratulations, Bethany!

Karl J. Kidd, 2019 Recipient of The Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award

This year, the Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award was given to a Maryland teacher. This award recognizes teachers who go above and beyond in teaching about agriculture in their classroom. This year’s recipient was Karl J. Kidd of Urbana @ Sugarloaf Elementary School. Mr. Kidd has proven to be a wonderful teacher and advocate for agriculture in the classroom and his efforts for such were awarded on November 7th, 2019 at the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation’s 31st Annual Banquet and Auction.

Karl Kidd has been an elementary educator for the past 14 years. He graduated from Frostburg State University with a Bachelors of Science in Biology in 2006 and from Hood College with a Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction: Elementary Education in 2010. He and his wife, Becky attended Ag in the Classroom 10 years ago and he has been incorporating agriculture in his lesson plans ever since! Karl has been back as a teacher for Ag in the Classroom for the past several summers.  

Since attending Ag in the Classroom, Karl has not only taught his students about agriculture, but his school as well. Karl developed a school-wide Ag Program for grades preK-5 using literature and lessons to bring ag to the students at his school. He developed a fall “Pumpkin Chunkin” Ag Day and a Spring Ag and the Bay Day, highlighting environmentally friendly farming and Ag commodities in Maryland. Karl has brought in livestock, farmers, bee keepers, wool spinners, and more to engage the students’ school wide. Karl was the co-author of Amazing! Maryland Agriculture and attended the National Ag in the Classroom in Hershey, PA. Recently, Mr. Kidd hosted the 1 Million and Counting Celebration at Urbana @ Sugarloaf Elementary School, highlighting the mobile science lab’s outreach and education.  

MAEF is happy to be recognizing Mr.Kidd for all of this accomplishments, creativity, and dedication to teaching about agriculture in the classroom!

Other Scholarship Opportunities

Click on the images or links below for more information on current scholarship opportunities. If you know of an opportunity not highlighted here, please contact Ben Brown at