Browning Neddeau, M.A.
Multiple Subject Teacher Credential Courses
University of San Francisco and San Jose State University
This interview was originally published on CFAITC's blog, "The Fencepost."
How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned about Ag in the Classroom during the spring of 2011. A doctoral student at the University of San Francisco shared with me how she had attended an Ag in the Classroom conference and found it very engaging.
How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I started teaching in private and charter schools back in 2003. I have been a California multiple subject credentialed teacher since 2007. I chose to become a teacher because I love learning. Teaching allows me to share my passion for learning with others while being a facilitator of their learning.
What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My favorite AITC event is Farm Day. Last year, my teacher credential students from both the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University participated in Farm Day. This event allowed my students to gain hands-on experience working with elementary school students while also learning about the powerful impact agriculture has on our society. The students came back to the university classroom with a better understanding of what meaningful learning looks and feels like, thanks to their Farm Day experiences.
What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
I feel that my early exposure to agriculture helped shape me into the person I am today. I grew up in Hollister, California. Hollister has always been considered an agricultural community and Hollister celebrates this in many ways. My high school's mascot was a hay baler. The annual Horse Show Parade, San Benito County Fair, Future Farmers of America, and 4-H are just some examples of the rich agricultural community that continues to thrive in Hollister. It was not until I moved away to attend college that I realized how much more exposure I had to agriculture education than my college peers. The level of appreciation for and understanding of agriculture should not be determined by whether a person lives in a suburban, urban, or rural community, as it is the combination of these different environments that allow us all to live happy and healthy lives.
Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Yes! Whether it is USDA's MyPlate or First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, agriculture remains at the heart of a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, agriculture is more than about the food we eat. It is also about the clothes we wear and the places we live. When I work with my credential students, I make sure that they are aware of the resources we are afforded. Having Ms. Stephanie Etcheverria from the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom share the Ag in the Classroom materials with my credential students truly underscores the conversations I have with them regarding meaningful learning in the 21st century classroom.
Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
One person that continues to influence my own educational career is my father, Donald Neddeau. He personifies the lifelong learner moniker. Having taught in public schools for more than 45 years, my father represents the passion, commitment, and innovation that I hope to emulate in my teaching.
Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
I can recall many wonderful teaching moments. One that widened my perspective on teaching and learning was my time with University of San Francisco's Project Learn Belize under the tutelage of Dr. Geoffrey Dillon, S.J. I spent two weeks working with University of San Francisco credential students in Dangriga, Belize. While in Belize, I was fortunate to work alongside Belizean teachers. Through this immersive experience, I learned many valuable lessons that I will remember forever. For instance, I learned the power of building positive relationships within the classroom. One Belizean student comes to mind who was seen as the shy student in the class. It turns out that he just needed the right motivation to participate in the class. Through the implementation of music and movement in the classroom, the classroom became this student's sanctuary where creativity was valued. On my final day of working with this student, he came up to me to thank me for working with him. I thanked him for working with me, too.
Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
I was first trained in Project Learning Tree (PLT) in 2007. In 2010, I became an environmental education facilitator for PLT. Since this time, I have shared PLT resources at workshops and with my multiple subject credential students. I have also partnered with several organizations that value agriculture-based projects. For example, I partnered with the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at San Jose State University to develop California state standards-based K-8 inquiry-based curriculum with my multiple subject credential students. Inservice teachers may borrow the inquiry-based curriculum from SERC. The curriculum covers a wide range of science content. Other partnerships that I have been involved with include the San Francisco Zoo, California Academy of Sciences, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, and The Tech Museum.
Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
Allow students to explore without feeding them answers. Incorporating agriculture in the classroom permits students to make meaningful connections that are both personal and far-reaching. As a teacher, you may not have all of the agricultural answers, but you can be a co-pilot in the learning process instead of always being the driver. I think that some teachers get stuck on seeking right or wrong answers from students instead of allowing students to explore and reason on their own. Implementing agriculture into the classroom encourages inquiry-based learning and not direct instruction. Be prepared to learn and grow with your students!
Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
In today's digital age, it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware so that they can delineate fact from fiction in accessible information. Moreover, agriculturally literate and aware students can pose thought-provoking questions that may lead to further innovation. Being agriculturally literate and aware fosters an informed citizenry in which we all can live and thrive.