K-5th Grade Teacher
Crane Country Day School
Santa Barbara County
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 Agriculture in the Classroom when my son was in kindergarten 14 years ago. At the time, as a parent volunteer, I helped his school obtain a $1,000 grant through the Hansen Trust in Santa Paula. I began taking gardening classes at the Hansen Trust Faulkner farm. It is during one of these workshops I came across the Cream of the Crop newsletter—and the rest is history!
How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
My love for teaching children began at the age of 16 when I created a summer camp in my neighborhood. As an active 4-H'er, I taught younger children about gardening and animal science. I had rabbits and a lamb that the children were able to brush, feed, and walk. The joy in the children's eyes when they got to handle the animals and pick vegetables from the garden instilled a love of teaching about agriculture in me. In college, I worked at an outdoor school as a naturalist and loved the idea of an "outdoor classroom." For the past nine years, I have taught science to K-fifth grade students. I believe students learn best by doing.
What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
I am a huge fan of the AITC conferences. It is during this time I get to meet interesting people, learn new teaching ideas, and gather bucket loads of materials to bring home to my students. I always feel like I hit the jackpot at Agriculture in the Classroom events!
What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
Feeling I can control how my food is grown has made a huge impact on me. Organic gardening feels like I'm helping the environment and helping my friends and family to have a healthy diet. Learning where my food comes and how it is processed has made a huge impact on me. I truly appreciate the awareness I have gained through the knowledge I have obtained from AITC and other gardening websites.
Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Students learn best by actively participating in hands-on activities. Having a garden at school teaches students how important it is to take care of and nurture things in order for them to grow. This teaching value stretches way beyond the garden and is true for just about everything in life.
Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
I have vivid memories of being a young girl and having my mom teach me how to harvest pine nuts from our tree in the front yard and oat germ from the grass that grew wild nearby. I spent hours gathering the nuts and something clicked about where our food came from. My grandparents had a vegetable garden and I loved helping them water and weed the garden, but my favorite time was when we could harvest.
Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
Teaching hands-on agriculture-based lessons takes a little more set-up time than other activities, but the rewards are tremendous! I love teaching students about something they can relate to. I haven't met a student yet that isn't interested in where their food comes from. Mini-gardens can be made out of shoeboxes lined with plastic wrap. The set-up is inexpensive and the students absolutely love comparing seed size to plant growth or the germination rate.
Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
Students need to be agriculturally literate so that they can make educated choices about the foods they eat. Educated students will make better choices when it comes to caring for the environment. The children of today are our Earth's guardians of the future. It is our job as educators to teach them how to take care of our beautiful planet Earth.