Commodity News -
Saturday, 26 March 2011 14:27
OSWEGO - In using an agriculture curriculum to engage the minds of her kindergarten students, Theresa Farris found that agriculture has renewed her own enthusiasm for teaching.
Farris, who received the 2011 Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the Year award from the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, says the Service Valley Charter Academy is in its fourth year using agriculture throughout the curriculum. The Academy, just outside Oswego, features a barn, gardens for each classroom and a school greenhouse, plus animals and plants that enable children from kindergarten through fourth grade to learn by doing.
Farris uses mathematics to measure the garden's layout in the classroom, and determine how many seeds are needed when accounting for the space between seeds. Soil samples teach science, and student "treasure books," based on the classroom's work with various animals and plants, focus on art and reading. Last year, students wrote and illustrated four books for the school's library. Each day, children write about the day's agricultural activities in journals. Additional responsibilities include taking care of the school's chickens and developing a butterfly garden.
Farris employs many strategies to teach agriculture, including an inquiry-based learning approach. Her students conduct research driven by student questions that come up while learning about a topic. For example, students once discussed whether white eggs taste better than the brown eggs laid by the school's chickens. She created a case study to determine if the kids could taste the difference between the two.
"It is very easy to incorporate agriculture into the curriculum," Farris says. "The best days are the ones that we're outside learning."
The KFAC Web site has a wealth of agriculture-based lesson plans for teachers of young kids to use. Teaching at an agriculture-based charter school - while helpful - isn't required, Farris adds. "You can use the same lessons in a traditional classroom, if you had the resources and the desire to do that."
Farris has spent 21 years at Service Valley, teaching kindergarten and first grade. As a relatively new charter school, and one of just two in the state focusing on agriculture, the freedom of doing project-based learning has helped children and teachers alike.
"It has given me a new passion in teaching," she says. "There is so much more that you can draw from using agriculture to pull in the classroom. I don't do it as a separate lesson. I integrate it throughout the curriculum, in the math and the reading. It's just wonderful."
As the 2011 honoree of the Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the Year award, she earns an expense-paid trip to the National Foundation for Ag in the Classroom meeting this summer. The High Plains Journal sponsors the award.
The Kansas Wheat Commission proudly joins the other commodity commission organizations in contributing to the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom. For more information, log onto www.ksagclassroom.org. Learn more about Service Valley Academy by logging onto www.usd504.org.