Gardens are a place of growth, and not just for plants.
Seven teachers won the 2023 National Agriculture in the in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award for their ability to teach agricultural concepts to students of all ages throughout their curriculums, and many chose to do so through a school garden.
A partnership for the students
The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and Farm Credit partner each year to honor teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more.
A common theme throughout a diversity of subjects
"Many people think that agriculture teaches hard work and perseverance, and it does. But, these outstanding teachers recognize that agriculture also is fertile ground for teaching botany, biology, chemistry, finance, climatology and arts, in ways that any age or level of students can understand, appreciate and apply to their daily life," said Dr. Carrie Castille, director of USDA-NIFA, which provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITCO. "When a student makes that real-life connection to the lessons their teachers share, students continue to learn and absorb the true meaning of those lessons when they leave the classroom. Innovative teachers like these are often responsible for awakening a student's love of learning, nature and science."
A bright spot
"Honoring these innovative teachers for the ways they use agricultural themes to teach language arts, math, science, social studies and the STEM subject areas is the highlight of the year for National Agriculture in the Classroom and its Agriculture in the Classroom state member programs," said Tammy Maxey, president of NAITCO and programs director of the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
Farm Credit is proud to support teachers
"Teachers are key partners in agricultural literacy education, helping to shape the next generation of agriculture advocates through intentional and engaging activities," said president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council Todd Van Hoose. "Farm Credit is proud to honor these innovative educators and support their ongoing commitment to growing future leaders."
2023 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award Recipients:
Monica Massei is a primary school teacher Georgia. She is highly involved in her local Farm Bureau and provides hands on opportunities for students to understand the importance of agriculture and how it relates to their lives.
Haley is a primary school teacher in Louisiana. She optimizes teaching about the natural world with a special "Cycles of Nature" educational unit to educate about plant and animal life cycles and cross curricular lessons. Additionally she utilizes the school garden as a teaching tool for core concept experiential learning. For example, students created homemade soap using fresh garden herbs wile learning about different states of matter, as well as chemical and physical changes.
Stacey Sanborn is a primary school teacher in Maine. Stacey's curriculum includes utilizing "Manchester Gardens for Learning" to grow and provide produce all year to the cafeteria and local food pantry. Students learn about soil, pollination, composting, and cooking. The class also participates in the "Adopt a Calf" program and attends Ag Education Day at the local fair. Stacey also facilitates continuing education for colleagues with state-wide garden trainings for other educators and creating a database of agricultural resources for all teachers at her school.
Clayton and Megan Kappauf are primary school teachers in Upstate New York. They use aeroponic growing systems to teach students about gardening and produce year round and teach tapping trees for maple syrup.
Melody Thieme is an elementary school teacher at Crimson View in Utah. She serves on the Greehouse Committee for her school and teaches students greenhouse maintenance, plant life cycles, and STEM projects such as plant growing comparitive studies.
Jessica Rettler is a primary school teacher in Wisconsin who focuses on agricuture in her teachings. SHe organizes farm visit field trips and invite local farmers as guest speakers to her classroom. Additionally she activates her classes with the WFBF's Book of the Year and AITC essay contest. She is actively involved in the Farming for the Future Foundation and offers her intergenerational family farm for a "Food + Farm Exploration Center" in central Wisconsin.
Kendel Hayden is a 6th grade teacher at Owensboro Middle School in Kentucky who teaches Ancient World History. Kendel adds project-based teaching around growing gardens, sharing the harvest with the cafeteria and local shelter, landfill visits, composting, and hydroponic growing.
Jennifer Hatch is a 25 year teaching veteran who is currently teaching math at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Franklin County, Virgina. She teaches a class with a wide spectrum of learning needs. While math is not usually a popular subject in middle school, she implemented a hydroponic unit which allowed a hands on approach for students to apply math concepts. Furthermore she partnered with local farmers to share their expertise and guidance.