WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Cindy Snell, a Waukee APEX Ag and Bio Science teacher, is the recipient of the Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture award presented by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF). Snell competed against other elementary, middle school and high school teachers from across Iowa to earn the honor. She was recognized at a ceremony at the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation board of directors’ meeting held Dec. 13, 2022, in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Snell is in her 25th year of teaching having taught in Des Moines Public Schools; Kofu, Japan; and Waukee Public Schools. She joined Waukee Public Schools in 2015 to start the district’s agriculture education program. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Ag and Science Education from Iowa State University and her Master of Science in Education from Drake University. Snell also serves as the Farm to School lead teacher and the Waukee FFA advisor.
Snell, who grew up on a farm in Floyd County, Iowa, expressed to the IALF board members the importance of fostering community partnerships to further student education beyond the classroom. “We wanted to start an agriculture program in an urban school setting teaching all students the importance of agriculture and knowing where their food comes from,” said Snell. “With Waukee Community Schools having more than 13,000 students and me as the only agricultural teacher in the district, I have learned the importance of partnering with everyone will help in this effort. We’ve received grants and support from numerous organizations such as the USDA Farm to School, ISU Dallas County Extension, local farmers and agribusinesses, STEM Council, World Food Prize, and more.”
“Cindy was chosen from the numerous applicants because of her connections to National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes and cross-curricular teaching helping to show agriculture in all subject areas,” said Kelly Foss, IALF Executive Director. “She has a tremendous ability to create community partnerships to help students see agriculture beyond their classrooms, which increases future career opportunities for those students. And, she uses real-world challenges to help students understand issues impacting the world around them and help them to see how small solutions can help.”
Snell integrates the National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes (NALOs) into several different areas of classroom programs. For high school, one area is agriculture and the environment where students are taught to identify conservation issues in the community and how they would change or improve the issue. Students research about water issues, soil conservation, pollinator habitat, invasive species, use of pesticides/herbicides, no till farming, and more. At the end of the process, student groups develop solutions to improve the issue. Some of those student-developed solutions have included planting pollinator gardens, identifying no spray areas, establishing teaching gardens, and collecting food waste at schools for composting. Snell encourages students to see how small changes can lead to big improvements.
Students in all levels of Waukee classes have participated in agriculture learning through hands-on experiences such as plant walls, egg hatching programs, hydroponics and dissections, vermicomposting, life gardens, ioponics, aquaponics, workshops, field trips, community service, and school gardens.
“While my teaching assignment is with high school much of my time and energy is working with teachers and students preK-12th grade to further expand agriculture education to all students,” Snell continued.
Snell will receive a $500 stipend to support her continued efforts of integrating agriculture into her classroom curriculum. She will also attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference to be held in Orlando, Fla. in June 2023.
— Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation