OKLAHOMA CITY — A chemistry investigation on the composition of milk, robotics in agriculture, and solving a crime in a wheat field – each of these are agricultural lessons that can be taught in classrooms everywhere.
Thanks to the 2018 Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom’s state conference “mAGnificent Oklahoma,” these lessons have been provided to nearly 340 educators from across the state.
The conference took place July 13 at the Metro Technology Center and featured 18 different workshops on a variety of topics to include branding cattle, soybean production, harvesting berries, and many more. Workshops were led by expert teachers who incorporate AITC in their lessons. Attendees also heard from producers, commodity leaders, Oklahoma Agritourism, the Noble Research Institute, and an FFA advisor.
“Our teachers are challenged to find new and innovative ways to make a difference in the lives of Oklahoma’s youth,” said Melody Aufill, Oklahoma AITC coordinator. “What better way to do this than by teaching them about an industry that is constantly advancing?”
AITC is a program to help educate students about where their food, clothes and shelter come from and the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. AITC is in the business of bridging the gap between producers and consumers through education.
“With the population continuing to increase exponentially and fewer people choosing an agricultural career, it is crucial for the next generation to not only pursue agriculture through potential careers, but also to be knowledgeable about how their food is produced,” Aufill said.
She added, “These teachers can inspire the next soil scientist, agronomist, cattle rancher, agricultural communicator, or technology expert who helps the industry become more efficient and effective. Regardless of students’ future career path, each one becomes an educated consumer because they have learned about agriculture in a fun and exciting way.”
Oklahoma AITC has hosted this event for the past 12 years and strives to recognize those making an impact in their schools through AITC.
Johnnie Keel, 2018 Oklahoma AITC Teacher of the Year, gave a presentation on the importance of teaching agriculture. Dana Bessinger was awarded as the 2018 Oklahoma AITC Ag Advocate, and Shirley Lettkeman was recognized for her outstanding service to Oklahoma AITC, as AITC Advisory Board president.
Teachers had the opportunity to network with agricultural vendors and commodity groups and listen to a keynote speaker, Patti Beth Anderson, who takes the role of “Willamae” on stage as she promotes agriculture by combining her rural and theatrical backgrounds.
Anderson, who is a farmer’s daughter and grew up involved in 4-H, now has a cattle ranch of her own. She has a “big, deep heart for agriculture” and says she tries to use the “gift of laughter to educate and motivate.”
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese welcomed attendees as well as Dr. Thomas Coon, Oklahoma State University Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources vice president, dean and director.
“Ag in the Classroom” is really more like “ag is our classroom,” Dr. Coon said.
Aufill added, “The goal is to equip teachers with accurate agricultural knowledge so they feel comfortable teaching students about ag whether they come from a farming background or not.”
Tammy Will, a middle school and high school teacher at Morrison Public Schools, has taught for 14 years and has been involved in Oklahoma AITC for six years. She was also a finalist for this year’s Oklahoma AITC Teacher of the Year award.
Will’s husband is a full-time farmer, so she has a heavy agricultural background.
“There are a lot of things that we do at our farm and a lot of science-type things that I can relate to in my classroom,” she said. “When I first started coming to AITC conference, I got to see how to connect our concepts from our standards side to actual farming ideas. It was just an eye opener. It’s what I do. It’s what my husband does everyday.”
Will has been teaching her students that there are many agricultural careers outside of farming. She enjoys taking what she loves from home and bringing it to her classroom.
“The love of agriculture from a personal standpoint and then getting to share that love with my students has been really neat,” she said.
Almost one-third of participants were first-time conference attendees, and there were several new presenters as well. Here is what they thought about their first Oklahoma AITC conference:
- “I think it’s a great resource for Oklahoma teachers. I was surprised at the variety of workshops offered, and it’s interesting how many different types of teachers are here from all different disciplines and backgrounds.” – Abby Paugh, Oklahoma Agritourism intern and a first-time conference presenter
- “As a first-time Ag in the Classroom conference-goer, I would say that I am very impressed with how hands-on the activities have been so far, and it’s definitely things we can take back to our classrooms and the kids will enjoy.” – Jenna Bulling, Morrison Public Schools fifth-grade teacher.
- “I have gained new ideas and activities for my classroom. It’s been a very neat experience, and I can’t wait to attend next year’s conference.” – Shari Snow, Elgin Elementary School second-grade teacher
- “I had been to some of their workshops before, but I had never been to the conference before. I had no idea what all was offered … I’m going to go back and tell the teachers that you all missed out big time. I mean everything is just really good.” – Pam Groom, Perry Elementary School third-grade teacher
- “It’s amazing, a little mind-blowing. I’m amazed that there are so many avenues. I’m amazed because there are so many great teachers here, and they are sharing all their ideas. And I’m picking and pulling ideas. I’m jotting down ideas, creating lesson plans the whole time they’re going.” – Anna Wofford, Frederick Elementary School third-grade teacher
Oklahoma AITC’s website showcases more than 300 lessons and activities. It is updated on a monthly basis to highlight agricultural activities that pertain to each specific month. Additionally, teachers can sign up for the newsletter to be updated on contests, conferences, free professional development and trips that occur throughout the year. For more information, visit www.agclassroom.org/ok or the Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom Facebook page.
–Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
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