2020 Winner - Arlys Cupp
Arlys Cupp, a second-grade teacher at Chase County Schools in Imperial, was honored at a surprise ceremony at the school on Jan. 13.
“The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is pleased to honor Arlys Cupp, a teacher who demonstrates a strong connection between core classroom learning and agriculture all year in the classroom,” said Courtney Schaardt, director of outreach education. “She creatively incorporates lessons and activities that help students understand that agriculture is their source of food, fiber, and fuel.”
Cupp has been a teacher in Southwestern Nebraska for 35 years. Throughout those years, she has continuously incorporated agriculture into her curriculum. Cupp uses many ways to connect learning and agriculture into core subject areas like language arts, math, social studies, and science.
Cupp’s classroom uses Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom resources to help the students learn and understand that agriculture is part of their lives every day. From the food they eat to the clothes they wear, agriculture is all around them.
One of Cupp’s favorite programs is the Ag Pen Pal program. Her classroom partners with a rancher in the sandhills who has a cattle operation. The classroom and the pen pal write letters to each other throughout the school year. Their pen pal shows them the importance of cattle being produced to feed the population and how crops are produced and harvested in our state.
“Letter writing skills are taught and improved while the students learn about agriculture in Nebraska,” said Cupp. “The friendships and relationships developed are personal and create a real-life connection to agriculture for the students.”
Cupp uses many of the accurate agriculture books that the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation recommends in her language arts class. One of her favorites is First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby. The book is based on a contest that Thomas Jefferson held with his friends and neighbors every year. The book integrates school gardens, history, and seasonal weather themes into a fun-to read book. Cupp developed an hour-long lesson to go with the book where the students learn about Thomas Jefferson, farming throughout history, and modern-day agriculture.
“After we read the book, each student received a package of peas to plant at home,” said Cupp. “I received pictures all summer long of the pea plants and produce the students grew to eat with their families.”
Cupp is also involved with 4-H and FFA. Cupp has been a 4-H leader for 26 years and has lead projects in the areas of livestock, vet science, gardening, cooking, S.T.E.M, and communications. She enjoys watching the children explore and excel in agriculture related areas while challenging them to further their knowledge and expand their projects.
On her own farm, Cupp grows 2.5 acres of pumpkins and has a corn maze and pumpkin patch that is open to the public on the weekends. She enjoys being able to incorporate Farm Bureau’s companion resources as part of the unit she teaches on pumpkins. Each Christmas her classroom sends hand-painted, dried gourds to their Ag Pen Pal.
“I feel so privileged to be able to teach my students about the generations before us and their agriculture practices,” said Cupp. “Many of my students have grown into individuals with successful agriculture careers. I’m so lucky that I get to be a part of what interests them in agriculture at such an early age.”
2019 Winners - Carolyn Dolezal & Abbey Spaulding
Dolezal has been part of the Ag Pen Pal Program for 15 years. Her classroom’s pen pals are Neal and Carol Pavlish in Saline County. Her fourth-grade students eagerly read the letters about their pen pals’ crops, facts about the animals, and the perseverance of being on a farm. Each spring, Dolezal’s class takes a field trip to Pavlish’s farm in Crete where the Pavlish family shares the joys and day-to-day work at the farm. This includes gathering eggs from their chickens, the process of planting corn using a planter and tractor, and getting up close with the cows.
“A favorite activity is feeding the Black Angus steers hay through the fence,” said Dolezal. “At the farm is where they begin to understand the fact that these steers provide meat at their homes or in restaurants.”
Dolezal grew up on a farm in Pawnee County. She often relates agriculture back to what the kids are learning in school. She processed honey for her family table, so she shares the importance of bees as pollinators to her students. Her family also milked cows and sold cream, so when her students make butter out of cream she can help them understand where butter comes from.
This year is Spaulding’s third year participating in the Ag Pen Pal Program. Her class also attends the Foundation’s popular Virtual Field Trips. These field trips use technology to allow farmers and ranchers to open their barn doors to show students what happens on their farms and ranches. The farmer or rancher uses a tablet to connect with classrooms to be a part of a live video-chat allowing students to ask questions. Spaulding’s class attended a virtual field trip to a pig farm where they got to see baby pigs and learn about the care they receive and how they grow.
“It’s amazing how technology can connect students to a far-away place and make them feel like they are there from our very own classroom!” Spaulding said. “Many of my students do not have experience with agriculture or rural life on the farm or ranch, so this has given them the chance to see what farm life is like first hand.”
Spaulding’s grandfather was a farmer in Minden for most of his life, so she knows firsthand what it takes to work the land, grow the crops, and put so much of yourself into this career. Spaulding feels an obligation to pass the import lessons her grandpa gave her to her students.
“Farming is the cornerstone to our economy in Nebraska, and we need to teach our students these lessons,” Spaulding said. “Being a native Nebraskan has given me the opportunity to share those values and experiences that are so deeply rooted in living in the Midwest!”
2018 Teachers of the Year - Stephanie Wolf & Jennifer Johnson
Stephanie Wolf is a special education teacher at Brady Public Schools in Brady. Stephanie brings agriculture into her classrooms with the Lincoln County Farm Bureau Learning Barn, live animals, and hatching chicks in her classroom. She also brings in her own knowledge of life experiences on the farm to help the students understand and connect to their projects.
“By bringing in the live animals and showing the kids where their food and fiber come from, it gives them real-life experiences that they might not otherwise have,” says Stephanie. “Through these real-life interactions, the student learns much more than just from a book.”
Mrs. Wolf enjoys the Eggology unit the most. To keep the lesson interactive and hands-on, students help setup the incubator, build a pen, and watch the chicks hatch from the shells in the springtime. Students stay involved by feeding and watering the chicks while learning of the important job farmers and ranchers have to their livestock every day.
Jennifer Johnson teaches third grade at Sutton Public Schools in Sutton, Nebraska a farming community, so she was shocked when her students struggled to answer her question of “What is agriculture?” That is when she knew she needed to do more this year with agriculture.
Johnson incorporated agriculture into her classroom by transforming her classroom into a farm.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I also knew this was a class that needed hands-on learning and would learn from these activities,” she said.
She asked the students to dress up like someone who lives on a farm. When the students came in the next morning, they were in awe. They saw straw bales, a saddle, feed, barns, farm equipment, books, magazines, and animals. The rest of the morning, the students discussed each item and how each was used on the farm. In the afternoon, Johnson invited a rancher to visit the classroom and talk about their jobs and how the animals had to be taken care of every day, even on weekends and holidays and in all kinds of weather.
“This activity brought to life agriculture in Nebraska and how important it is to know where your food is coming from,” Johnson said. “In this day and age, we have many types of learners, and my hope was to reach these students in one way or another to appreciate agriculture and life in Nebraska.”
2017 Winners - Jane Gundvaldson & Matthew Koth
Jane Gundvaldson, is a fourth grade teacher at Thomas Elementary School in Gretna. She brings agriculture into her classroom by paralleling what foods her students eat on a regular basis to the farms where the food is grown or raised. Jane believes these lessons linking Nebraskans to where their food comes are the most fulfilling part of her teaching career. She finds it more important than ever to help her students understand that the hamburgers or pork chops that they are eating come from Nebraska.
In addition, Mrs. Gundvaldson’s fourth graders participate in the Foundation’s Ag Pen Pal Program, where their classroom is matched with a farmer in Nebraska. Chuck Homolka, a Merrick County Farm Bureau member sends videos and pictures of planting and harvest to the students so that they understand what it really takes to grow their food. For the past two years the students have visited Homolka’s farm in Central City to see first-hand the equipment necessary to grow popcorn and corn for ethanol plants and raise cattle.
Matthew Koth teaches third grade at Highland Elementary School in Omaha. His classroom is also involved in the Ag Pen Pal Program and is matched with Arlan and Sarah Paxton in Stapleton. The Paxton’s have shared with the classroom by sending video of how they care for the cattle and prepare for the winter by bailing hay. The students learn firsthand how important agriculture is to the entire state of Nebraska through the Ad Pen Pal Program.
Koth also incorporates agriculture into the classroom by reading the story Stone Soup by Jon Muth to his third graders. The students discuss and write the ingredients on the board then are tasked at finding where each ingredients in the soup is from. From there, they talk about how the food gets from the farm to the grocery store and if we are able to grow those foods in Nebraska. This activity brings up discussion about why some crops are grown in different areas of the country and world. His classroom then compares which ingredients have traveled the furthest and which are the closest to us in Nebraska.
2016 Winners - Anica Brown & Judi Roach
Anica Brown is a seventh grade teacher at Pound Middle School in Lincoln. She enhances her lessons with an agricultural perspective by connecting with farmers and ranchers in Nebraska through the Foundation's Ag Pen Pal program. Brown’s Pen Pals include, Brock and Kerry Elsen, Buffalo County Farm Bureau members, Darren and Stacy Nelson, Platte County Farm Bureau members, Ben Hendrix, Dundy County Farm Bureau member, Cheryl Feala from North Bend and high school students from the Cody Killgore FFA Chapter. Brown is one of many teacher in the program who have multiple Ag Pen Pals. She wants to show the diversity of agriculture across Nebraska. She began with the Ag in the Classroom program while teaching fourth grade at Belmont Elementary School in Lincoln. Brown grew up in the city but spent many summers with her grandma, aunts and uncles who lived on farms just west of Emerald and near Malcolm, Nebraska.
Judi Roach first participated in the Ag Pen Pal program in 2012, when her fourth grade students wrote letters to Jeff and Robyn Huffman, Lincoln County Farm Bureau members and Ag Pen Pals. The student’s exchanged letters, visited via Skype technology and were able to take a field trip to the Huffman farm. “The visit to the farm made the whole Ag Pen Pal experience come full circle,” said Roach. Judi’s class participated in multiple Google handout sessions with Jeff. During each session the students asked questions and Jeff would answer them. During one particular session Jeff showed the class how the corn planter worked and shared when he would begin planting. On the first day of planting Jeff was able to virtually show the class how to fill the planter and how it operated. “It was great that we were there on the first day of planting via technology!” Roach said. Through the incorporation of the Ag Pen Pal program and Ag in the Classroom, Roach’s class has created an Ag Pen Pal Show that is shared with grades 1-4. They are using video footage from their field trip and are going to be showing it throughout the year. Roach’s class continues to be an Ag Pen Pal with the Huffman family.
2015 Winners - Jennifer Zysset & Karen Ashby
Jennifer Zysset and Karen Ashby
Jennifer Zysset's a second grade teacher at Windy Hills Elementary in Kearney. She grew up on a farm and was chosen for her creativity in the classroom. Her students are able to learn about farm life through her personal experiences, watching videos her parents send of their farm and by reading books focused on agriculture. In addition to these experiences, the Windy Hills Elementary second grad class is a part of the Ag Pen Pal Program and participates in Ag in the Classroom Skype Series.
Karen is a third grad teacher at Chandler View Elementary in Bellevue. She has lived in the Omaha area her whole life, but understands the importance of agriculture. She starts out one of her first lessons by asking, "What does a farmer do?" Ashby has been able to effectively incorporate agriculture into her classroom by meeting state standards in Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. Some lessons include learning about how much farmland is left, how plants grow and the yearly cycle of farming. Along with these lessons the third grade class at Chandler View Elementary are a part of the Ag Pen Pal Program.
2014 Winners - Kathy Bohac & Patti Romshek
Kathy Bohac and Patti Romshek
Kathy Bohac and Patti Romshek, both teachers at East Butler Public School in Brainard, Neb., were honored. Bohac teaches fifth grade and Romshek teaches fifth and sixth grades.
Bohac and Romshek were able to bring “ag-citement” to their classrooms through a variety of activities, lessons and experiments. Students were able to dive into agriculture from soil to plate with six units spanning two weeks covering soil, soybeans, corn, pork, beef and nutrition.
Their project began with a lesson in farm safety and general pre-test over content from each of the units. Students were able to utilize their math skills with hands-on activities such as “Soybean Silos” and “M&M’s Corn Futures.” Each of the units also included guest speakers, weekly field trips and science experiments. The units concluded with a related agricultural game that helped keep the “ag-citement” in the classroom.
One field trip in particluar increased students' awareness of the use of by-products from agriculutural commodities.
“Some students cringed at the butcher shop as they saw the hearts and tongues of the pork, only to realize that nothing went to waste,” said Bohac.
At the end of the 12-week lesson, students created presentations and brochures pertaining to one of the units to highlight what they learned.
“We have realized a student interest and enthusiasm that far exceeded our expectations,” said Bohac.
2013 Winners - Kevin Atterberg & Angie Shaw
Kevin Atterberg brings agriculture to the city by taking his students through two semesters of scientific investigation that delve into the multifaceted world of agriculture. Students explore five different areas of agriculture, one lesson per week, for the duration of five months. The student’s first lesson includes exploring the background of agriculture and gaining important basic knowledge.
Learning about soil is the second area which Atterberg emphasizes. In this area, students discuss soil horizons and how the breakdown of plant and animal decay is beneficial to the soil. Atterberg teaches the importance of soil to growing crops all over the world through a unique approach putting the earth into perspective. Atterberg starts with an apple, representing the Earth, and dissects it so each piece represents either water, areas of the earth where no man, animal or plant can live such as Antarctica, areas where climate is not suitable to grow crops and areas where crops can grow. The final remaining piece of apple, representing where crops can grow, represents 10 percent of the earth. In the final section of this lesson students create dirt shirts using clay.
Specialists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln visited the students for the third area of Atterberg’s “Agriculture in the City” lesson. This lesson focused on a cow’s digestive system. For many students this was their first time ever seeing a cow up-close. Students learned about the four compartments of a cow’s stomach and were able to put their arm inside the cow to feel these different parts.
The fourth area in the “Agriculture in the City” unit focused on the germination process of a soybean seed. Students learned basic information about soybean plants and were then able to plant their own soybean seed.
The final area of Atterberg’s unit emphasizes nutrition. Each of his students tried numerous different soy products. After tasting, the students recorded their favorites. They also compared the nutritional value of the soy products to that of the foods the students normally eat every day.
“Many of my students have never thought about where their food or clothing comes from. I created this agricultural unit for my students to understand how the food that we eat and the clothes that we wear come from farms that are as close as a few miles outside of Lincoln,” Atterberg said.
During their second semester, students partnered up to create questions related to soybean plants. The students then created an experiment to determine a scientific explanation for their question. As an additional interactive piece to Atterberg’s unit, students were paired with an Ag Pen Pal provided by Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom.
Angie Shaw has had the opportunity to utilize various forms of technology, especially Skype, to educate kindergarten through fifth grade students about the powerful connection there is between agriculture and education. Shaw’s main focus was merging technology tools in the classroom with the content of soybean production in Nebraska.
While on Skype, students participated in question and answer sessions to gain a greater understanding of soybeans. Following the Skype sessions, students researched various aspects of individual soybean topics and participated in interactive computer lessons.
One lesson focused on how many things students use every day which are made of soybeans or soy byproducts. Students then created collages with graphic images they collected from Microsoft Word tools to communicate what they had learned. Another Skype session allowed the students to take a virtual field trip to the inside of a combine cab. Students gained from this session an understanding of how important technology is to farmers.
“The highlight of their virtual field trip was being able to watch as the soybeans were cut and then seeing them fall into the hopper. My students were eager and excited to return for each and every Skype lesson!” Shaw said.
Students also broadened their awareness of an agricultural crop they were not previously familiar with. Being largely from western Nebraska, most students were primarily aware of beets, corn and beans. This provided them with an opportunity to understand how soil type, weather and natural resources make it possible for various crops to be planted and grown in different regions of Nebraska.
Shaw facilitated each of the 50-minute Skype sessions held over a three-month period. These sessions were attended by nearly 500 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
2012 Winners - Carma Weisbrook & Greg Tebo
Carma Weisbrook believes that agriculture is the heartbeat of Nebraska. Every year at Mary Lynch Elementary School, her class celebrates Agriculture Week with three phases: preplanning, celebrating agriculture week and wrap-up.
During phase one, posters are hung in the hallway to pique the students’ curiosity. Weisbrook contacts agriculture organizations for free materials to distribute. The FFA advisor and Weisbrook meet to organize presentations for Agriculture Week.
Phase two is the celebration of Agriculture Week. Each day of the week highlights a top five agriculture product in the state of Nebraska. These include beef/dairy, corn, soybeans, pork and wheat. Weisbrook reads books to her class that she purchased through the AITC Teacher Mini-Grant Program. FFA students visit the class to share their knowledge of agriculture with the students. They also teach the students about off-the-farm agriculture-related jobs. The FFA students also prepare an activity for the class to participate in, such as planting corn seeds and racing wheat to the “bins” on the playground.
“Agriculture is the heartbeat of Nebraska. As a Nebraska fifth grade teacher, it is important to present vital information to the students so that they can be informed citizens about agriculture,” Weisbrook said.
The third phase is time for the students to reflect on what they have learned about Nebraska agriculture. The students write thank you letters to those who provided materials to use throughout the week. They also write thank you letters to the FFA students who presented information to the class.
Greg Tebo has had the opportunity to be part of a project funded by the Nebraska Soybean Association and the U.S. Soybean Association. The project, “Summer Soybean Science Institute,” involves teaching teachers how to use the soybean as a model to enhance existing curriculum, build lessons based on district and state standards, and enhance student learning by enabling students to use an inquiry approach to their learning.
“The purpose of the project is to develop a better understanding of the connection between the food supply and demand and its effect on the economics of the world,” Tebo said.
A pilot program was implemented in summer 2010 and funding was approved for summer 2011 for students in kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade to participate in the program.
Teachers invested approximately 90 hours from June to August. They
- developed a better understanding of the soybean plant system and found ways to incorporate that information into their existing science curriculum;
- learned how to formulate real scientific experiments that would further develop students’ understanding of how a scientific hypothesis is developed;
- worked on soybean research under the supervision and guidance of scientists;
- learned that scientific investigation is not just following a step-by-step method of investigating, but that science is “messy” and the process is not always straight-forward, clear and concise.
Kindergarten students planted soybeans, learned about the parts of a soybean, wrote facts about soybeans, sang songs about soybeans and participated in a soybean contest. First grade students used soil samples to plant soybeans and used graphs and charts to show the varieties and time allotted for growth.
Fourth grade students learned about six commodities and the role farmers have in the world’s economy. They created posters with facts and photos about their commodity in their computer class. They used these posters and food samples to show their expertise at a fourth grade Ag Fair Day where parents and friends were invited to learn about agriculture in Nebraska.
2011 Winners - Jill Walters & Kathy Wilke
As a fourth grade teacher at Cody Elementary School in North Platte, Jill Walters believes that agriculture brings the most enthusiasm from her students. When former students come back to visit they always have positive comments about agriculture. They remember the specific projects that they enjoyed doing - that is the key word, doing. Jill's students were actively involved in the learning process and most of the time the lessons included hands-on activities. Each student could pursue their own interests to learn more about our food system and the important role Nebraska agriculture is to the economy of the state.
One of Jill's famous projects to reinforce knowledge about the state's physical features is the Nebraska Cookie Project. Each student has a sugar cookie in the shape of Nebraska and the students decorate the cookie with food products to show the till plains, grasslands, sand hills, rivers and other aspects of their state. The learning continues as they enjoy eating the cookie while engaging in a discussion of the many agricultural products that were needed to make the cookie.
Jill's students learn the steps involved in getting a product from a farm or ranch to the dinner plate and understand each step - production, processing, marketing and distribution. Their favorite step is marketing as each student invents a new food item. Each year Jill is convinced that one day she will see a former student's product in a grocery store.
Through Jill's variety of activities and lessons, she is preparing her students to have an understanding and an awareness of the essential role agriculture plays in their state and throughout the world. Her students know that agriculture is vital to their lives and the future of our country.
If you could visit Kathy Wilke's fifth grade classroom at Randolph Public School, you would see agriculture concepts on the bulletin board, students using a Smart Board to take a virtual trip to the farm and perhaps a community leader showing a core sample of soil from the playground. Kathy incorporates agriculture throughout the school year in all the basic subject areas.
In the fall, the local FFA Chapter presents the students with a resource on Farm Safety. This is not just for students that live on a farm, but for urban students when they take a field trip to a farm. The FFA students also help the fifth graders decorate grocery bags with farm scenes or farm safety messages to be placed in the stores to help consumers be aware of agriculture in their community.
A Resource Soil Scientist speaks to the students about different kinds of soil, causes of erosion and farming techniques to control erosion. The next step is for the fifth graders to stimulate erosion on soil. They use paint trays of soil to show how water, wind and ice can move soil by using a spray bottle with water, hair dryer and ice cubes. How do you stop erosion? Try planting grass seed on the soil.
To help the students understand the Nebraska aquifer they constructed "edible aquifers." This showed the process of how well water can be affected by drought and pollution. To further understand the water system, a field trip was planned to visit the local water treatment plant. Students were able to see first-hand how water and sewage is processed. In each of Kathy's lessons, the students always had a hands-on activity, community leader or a field trip to help them understand a science and agriculture concept.
Kathy would always emphasize to her students that they must make good decisions about the use of the water and land, because of its importance to our food system. "Each individual is responsible for their choices that can affect the quality of life for everyone and each one of us must be good stewards of our natural resources," Kathy tells her students.
2010 Winners - Kathy Schellpeper & Berni Crow
Kathy Schellpeper believes the Agriculture in the Classroom program provides teachers with a wealth of materials that cover all aspects of agriculture. As a third grade teacher at Calvert Elementary School in Lincoln, she uses the ag production map, crop and livestock cards, seed samples, as well as many other resources to bring agriculture into the lives of her students. Most recently she developed lessons and activities to provide her students and students statewide an opportunity to acquire a love of reading while they learn about soybeans. These activities correlate with the AITC children's book "Why the Brown Bean was Blue" and achieve the new State Standards for language arts.
Schellpeper also participates in the Ag Pen Pal program, which is an excellent source of communication between the students and a farm/ranch family in Nebraska. Occasionally her farm/ranch family will visit the classroom, which is a wonderful interactive learning tool for students.
Berni Crow teaches all subject areas in a self-contained fourth grade classroom in the Arnold Public School District. Because every student has a laptop computer, technology is incorporated in every phase of learning along with agriculture. In Crow's class she has her students use the iMovie program on their computers to create and organize the history of a local family. Arnold is a small progressive village numbering 600-plus residents and rests in the heart of agriculture country. They've concentrated on families who've farmed the same land for 100 years or more. When the families send photos, each are scanned and used in the movie, which is presented by the students.
Another project Crow does with her class uses Skype, a software application that allows users to connect through video conferencing over the Internet. Last year, Arnold students communicated with the Papillion School District; questions and answers dealt with agriculture and economic forces in each community. Because Papillion is in a metropolitan area, their students learned about the economics of farming from the Arnold students. The project brought fourth grade students 200 miles away from each other together in real time.
2009 Winners - Tara Foster & Eliene Loetscher
Tara Foster understands that agriculture plays a vital role in the state of Nebraska. As a 4th grade teacher at Lake Maloney School in North Platte, Nebraska, she uses resources available through Agriculture in the Classroom to help teach her students about agriculture. In particular, the Nebraska Agriculture Map and Lesson Plans help her students understand what crops are grown in Nebraska, what livestock is raised in Nebraska and how those crops and livestock give them food and shelter.
Agriculture is also emphasized through "Agriculture Awareness Day" where the students take a field trip to the local fairgrounds. Some of the various stations they visit throughout the day include learning about harvesting crops, milking a cow, equipment used on a farm or ranch and many more.
Students in Eliene Loetscher's 1st grade classroom at Winside Public Schools in Winside, Nebraska, learn about agriculture from day one. The first unit Eliene teaches is an apple unit. She asks her students to bring an apple to class their first day, where they learn the different parts of the apple and turn all of their apples into applesauce. Many of Eliene's students live on a farm or have grandparents that do so they brought their apples from home or their grandparents' home.
Eliene also takes her class on a field trip to an apple orchard. This allows the students to see and visit with a family that depends on apples for their income. They learn how frost and temperature changes can affect the apple crop. They also learn the healthy benefits of eating apples.
2008 Winners - Bev Meyer & Jane Nyffeler
When entering Bev Meyer's kindergarten classroom at Logan View Elementary School in Hooper, Nebraska, the students are amazed to learn that the source of their food and other essentials of life come from farms. Bev sees it as her responsibility to provide an opportunity for each of her students to develop an awareness of how important farms are in their community and what it means to the students.
Bev focuses on farm animals to enhance the students' understanding of the products we use from them. Each day the students are involved in hands-on activities, reading literature books or listening to a guest speaker to further the connection of farms to the food on their plates.
Jane Nyffeler, a 4th grade teacher at Brownell Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, wants her students to understand cattle ranching. Jane and her students participate in the Agriculture in the Classroom Ag Pen Pal Program and correspond with a family that has a ranch. Through classroom visits with the family and their letters, the students have gained an understanding of the cattle industry and what it's like living on a ranch.
Jane uses all these exeriences to creatively use agriculture to meet State Standards. The students will have a new level of awareness as to the importance of cattle production as well as ranch life.
2007 Winners - Sandy Dorn & Melissa Ramsour
For seven years, Sandy Dorn, a 4th grade teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, and her students have been corresponding with a farm family through the Agriculture in the Classroom Ag Pen Pal Program. During the school year, Sandy's class is invited to visit their Ag Pen Pal's farm. Her students learn first hand about farming and the importance of this industry to their lives. After their farm visit the students draw pictures, write stories and poems about their adventures on the farm.
Through these lessons and activities in the classroom the students gain an understanding and awareness that agriculture provides them with the essentials of life. Sandy's philosophy is that agriculture connects us to our past, develops an appreciation for our present and celebrates with us the hope for our future.
A student in Melissa Ramsour's 4th grade class in North Bend Central Public School in North Bend, Nebraska, said, "I loved learning about pumpkins. It was the best day in my whole life when we got to take them off the vines." Each student was very excited to plant, observe, care for and harvest their pumpkins, but they were also learning math, science and reading/writing State Standards.
This unit was powerful because it was a cross-curricular unit and the activities were diversified to meet the needs of unique learning styles, interests, strengths and needs. The community was involved in this project as the students shared the pumpkins at a senior center and a day care center.
2006 Winners - Jo Conrad & Nancy Miller
As Jo Conrad, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Dodge Public School in Dodge, Nebraska, looked at different ways to introduce agriculture to her students and reach many of the goals set forth by the State Standards and her school district, she wanted to increase reading fluency, comprehension and note taking. Through her innovative ideas, the students became excited about reading and agriculture.
The crop and livestock cards developed by the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program were important components in Jo's lesson plans. To start the unit, the students would use the cards for timed reading exercises. The information on the cards piqued the students' interest in agriculture and at the same time met State Standards. Jo continues to look for creative ways to teach the basic subject areas using agriculture as the vehicle.
To connect agriculture and science concepts, Nancy Miller, a middle and high school teacher at Potter-Dix School in Potter, Nebraska, utilized a variety of educational resources from guest speakers, research publications and curriculum materials. One of the resources, Science and Our Food Supply, contained five modules that all touch upon agriculture. Each student completed an activity called "The Twelve Most Unwanted Bacteria." To assess the student's knowledge of the bacteria, each student developed a poster to share their findings and presented this information to the class.
Through all of these experiences, the students were learning not only science State Standards, but math and reading/writing standards. This enabled them to make the connection of our food system and science concepts, but also the importance of using science to keep our food safe.
2005 Winner - Patricia Carpenter
Pat CarpenterPatricia Carpenter, a teacher at the Youth Rehabilitation Center in Geneva, Nebraska, for students in grades 7-12, had a very unique plan to bring agriculture into her Business Education classes. Eighty-percent of Patricia's students come from the city and were not aware that the agriculture industry has an impact on the state's economy. The students learned about the different businesses involved in production agriculture, processing, distribution and marketing of the crops and livestock produced in Nebraska.
Each student researched a commodity grown in Nebraska and was required to use three different references. The next step was to organize this information, draw conclusions and solve problems. To assess the students' comprehension, they had to develop a mode of sharing their information by poster, diagram, multimedia, advertisement, song, play, etc.
2004 Winners - Bev Grueber & Jeanette Althouse
Bev Grueber's goal as a 4th grade teacher at North Bend Public Schools in North Bend, Nebraska, is to link agriculture with her Nebraska studies unit. The students start the unit by learning how important agriculture was to the settlement of Nebraska and then continue the unit to understand the role that agriculture plays in their lives today.
This 4th grade classroom is an exciting place to learn math, science, social studies and reading by using agriculture as the vehicle. An Agriculture Festival was planned with the student's researching the different commodities, where they were grown in Nebraska and the many ways we use each product. This information is shared with the community by reaching out to the senior citizens in the retirement center.
Through Bev's enthusiasm and commitment to agriculture, her students will be aware of how essential agriculture is to each person.
As you walk into Jeanette Althouse's classroom of 4th and 5th grade students in the Sutton Public School in Sutton, Nebraska, all the students are engaged in hands-on, minds-on activities. The students are learning how agriculture touches their lives every day. The students discovered that everything from the grains in their cereal to the crayons they use to color; the leather in their football to the soy bio-diesel in their school bus come from the agriculture industry.
To spread the word about agriculture, the students developed ABC booklets that focused on agricultural products using all the letters of the alphabet. These booklets were shared with students in other grades by playing Bingo on the Wall or Jeopardy with information from the booklets. The subjects included in the booklet showed the diversity of Nebraska agriculture and that we cannot live without agriculture.