It’s the teachers’ turn for a lesson
By KRISS NELSON
ROELYN – Summer break isn’t just vacation time for teachers. It’s oftentimes an opportunity for them to earn college and license renewal credit in addition to learning about new ways and subjects to bring to their classrooms come fall.
Through a partnership between the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and other partner organizations, a two-day professional development workshop began in Fort Dodge last Wednesday and will concluded Thursday.
Teachers Academy started in the classroom last Wednesday before the 33 teachers headed to Fort Dodge area agricultural industries on a bus tour and Thursday the group finished up their academy with a day full of classroom activities.
Terry Seehusen, Iowa Farm Bureau regional manager, helped bring the Teachers Academy to Fort Dodge, for what he believes is the first time the event was held in the area.
“We are trying to help teachers find ways to incorporate agriculture into their classrooms,” he said.
The bus tour took the group to NEW Cooperative’s Roelyn location, Martin Marietta, Cargill and CJ Bio America with the final stop at Soldier Creek Winery near Fort Dodge.
“At the NEW Cooperative fertilizer plant, for example, what I want them to learn there is they can see the equipment and how big it is, but that we use GPS to apply fertilizer, so we aren’t just willy-nilly out there applying nitrogen and stuff to the ground. I want to dispel a bunch of myths out there,” he said.
Chrissy Rhodes, education program coordinator with the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, said it has 11 workshops planned for this summer.
“We are really excited to get teachers out here and learn about agriculture and understand how it can be the context for the science and social studies they are already working to teach,” she said. “That is really our goal.”
Having the workshop both in and out of the classroom allows for a wide range of learning opportunities for the teachers.
“The first day is all tours, they’re leaning about the careers out here and the education their students are going to need to work at places like this and the scientific concepts,” she said. “Tomorrow we are going to be in the class which includes learning about lessons plans.”
Rhodes said the Teachers Academy welcomes teachers of all grade levels and they often will try to cater to the majority of the teacher’s grade’s levels that are attending.
“It helps them out so it’s more applicable to them,” she said.
Providing a lesson in everything agriculture, helps teachers apply the industry to lessons in the classroom.
“It’s important, I think, partly just for context for kids,” she said. “How many times do you hear kids saying ‘why do I need to learn this, why do I need to know this?’ Agriculture is the perfect context for most of those things and teachers just have to make that connection for them.”
Helping to make that connection could result in those children having a better understanding of agriculture and potentially sending them down the path of a career within the industry.
“It helps create educated consumers, educated policy makers – those kinds of things as well and really equips their students to get the jobs that are available in agriculture,” she said. “There are so many them. One in five Iowans work in agriculture, but if they are not aware of those opportunities, they are not going to get those jobs. It just helps to connect those dots.”
Rodney Brant, region operations manager for NEW Cooperative, shared the same sentiment.
“Basically, some have no idea what goes on here,” he said. “We have computer programmers, we have agronomists, animal nutrition people, and accountants. We have people that do a lot of our soil sampling and they drive four-wheelers around basically all day. There’s a wide variety of what we do that people don’t know about.”
Brant gave the teachers a view of the cooperative’s liquid and dry fertilizer facility with hopes of showing a different side of their business.
“The main reason I like to give tours to people, whether it is teachers or anybody, is everybody drives by, they see the big concrete silos. They know we handle grain. But, there is so much more to the business we do. Some of the biggest stewards of the land are our customers and us and to show people what we have done with technology to help with issues the general public has about fertilizers and chemistry and how we can use them wisely,” he said.
Sherry Ricke, first-grade teacher for the South Central Calhoun School District, said she decided to attend the Teachers Academy to help with the lack of agriculture taught in her classroom.
“We presently don’t teach a lot of agriculture in the classroom. We have a guest speaker that comes two times a year and I guess I wanted to know, and get some more resources and add it in with our science and social studies curriculum and to just have a little bit more knowledge and get a little bit more information,” she said.
Kerry McAlexander, second-grade teacher also at South Central Calhoun, said the workshop has allowed her to know more and teach about the diversity of agriculture.
“Agriculture has changed and there are so many career opportunities,” she said. “It’s not just being a farmer. There are so many more agricultural careers now that sometimes kids are not aware of.”
The Teachers Academy wrapped up on the second day with an all-day workshop covering such topics as farmers managing their crop inputs, the myths and misconceptions about modern agriculture, trade and more.
“The teachers will be able to have the resources that they can take and incorporate into the classroom – whether that it be math, science or Iowa history – whatever the case may be so the kids will learn more about agriculture and how it affects their daily lives,” said Seehusen.
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