New York students Skyping with an Iowa grain farmer. Wisconsin students campaigning for cheese to be their state’s official dairy product. Minnesota middle schoolers tending hay bale gardens. These are just a few of the inspirational projects accomplished by the winners of the 2018 Ag in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award.
The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Credit partner annually to honor six elementary and two secondary teachers from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach core academic subjects. The Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Awards are announced annually at NAITCO’s national conference.
"These teachers exemplify how using agricultural concepts in the classroom can successfully deliver important reading, writing, math, science and social studies lessons to students," said Dr. Victoria LeBeaux, the National Agriculture in the Classroom Program Leader for USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITCO.
"The students these teachers reach learn about the importance of agriculture, and the careers that are available in this important industry," said Willie Grenier, president of NAITCO and executive director of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom.
As the average American becomes further and further removed from agriculture, Ag in the Classroom helps to introduce agricultural topics to a non-farm audience and increase ag literacy. Farm Credit proudly honors teachers who bring rural communities and agriculture into the mainstream, while teaching young people about how the subjects they learn in school are relevant to a wide variety of real-world applications.
“NAITCO very much appreciates Farm Credit’s annual support of the National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award program because it allows us to recognize more award winning teachers,” said Lisa Gaskalla, NAITCO executive director. “These awards are the highlight of our national conference.”
The eight award winners’ passion for teaching and excitement about agriculture are easy to see in the stories below.
Jacqueline Holmes, a third-grade teacher at Triangle Elementary in Florida, turned a love of horticulture into a school-wide garden initiative to teach students reading, writing, math, science and social studies, good nutrition and the value of giving back to the community.
Wanda Small, a K-6 grade teacher at Atchison County Community Elementary in Kansas, partners with the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, 4-H and Kansas Farm Bureau to educate students about the animal and plant sciences and cover the STEAM subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math).
Julie Janecka, a fifth-grade teacher at East Picacho Elementary in New Mexico, uses a school-wide unit on the chile pepper, her state's signature crop, to teach science, economics, cultural studies and nutrition.
Amy Gosier, a first-grade teacher at Milton Terrace Elementary in New York, developed a cross-curricular unit on corn. Her students Skyped regularly with an Iowa corn and soybean grower as he planted, cultivated and harvested his crop.
Andy Roach, a fifth-grade math teacher at McFadden School of Excellence in Tennessee, uses a school garden and hen house to teach students how to measure the distance between seeds when planting, and chicken height, weight and percentage change between the two as the chickens grow, among many other math lessons.
Jennifer Massengill, PreK-4 grade science and technology teacher at Hampton Roads Academy in Virginia, uses a school garden as the subject for a school-wide blog group, afternoon garden club and morning cooking class to teach technology and plant germination, nutrition and genetics to teach science.
Livia Doyle, a fourth-grade teacher at Mineral Point Unified School District in Wisconsin, had her students launch a successful effort to convince state lawmakers to make cheese Wisconsin's official state dairy product.
Amy Mastin, a middle school teacher at Laporte School in Minnesota, initiated a school-wide, cross-curricular garden effort starting with each class planting hay bale gardens and expanding to raised bed gardens available to all classrooms and built by the high school construction class.
This blog post was adapted from National Ag in the Classroom. The original can be found here.