Nebraska Teacher Capitalizes on Agriculture Education; Recipient of White-Reinhardt Fund for Education Scholarship

2/27/2014 7:30:00 AM

Kevin Atterberg, teacher at Culler Middle School in Lincoln, Neb., approaches his eighth grade lesson plans differently than the traditional teacher. Atterberg focuses his on agriculture.

“I believe that agriculture literacy should be a major part of classroom learning as everything is relevant to agriculture,” said Atterberg.

Despite coming from a rural Iowa town, Atterberg, like his students, grew up not knowing about the agriculture around him. This led to his motivation to learn more. In 2010, he enrolled in a summer class for teachers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Summer Soybean Science Institute, on implementing soybeans into the teaching curriculum.

Atterberg brought this soybean knowledge back to his classroom, but soon discovered that his students were lacking in the bigger picture of agriculture including the knowledge of where their food, fuel and clothing originated. So instead of solely focusing on soybeans, Atterberg expanded the spectrum.

“If you ask students where their food comes from, many will answer with the store they purchased it from. They don’t understand the love and labor many people have put in from around the country or even our own backyard to get a product into their everyday lives. Our children need to know that agriculture isn’t just cows and plows – its science, its math, its social studies, its education,” said Atterberg.

Every Tuesday Atterberg provides his students with hands-on applications including a soil unit which includes making tie-dyed T-shirts from soil, a beef unit with a visit from the mobile beef lab where students get to put their hands into a working rumen, a career unit where students make and market their own salad dressing, an inquiry unit where students conduct their own agriculture experiment and showcase it at the school’s agriculture fair, and many more.

“We can teach all we want out of books, but first-hand knowledge of getting your hands dirty has always been the best way of learning something,” said Atterberg.

Atterberg takes into account past student’s comments and adds to his curriculum each year. New this year in correspondence with Earth Day, his class will create an outdoor sanctuary at their school with a garden. The class will work with art and industrial technology classes to complete plans to expand each year.

“The greatest result is that my students are looking at where their food and clothing come from in a totally different light. They are able to see first-hand the science behind the products. It exposes them to career paths that they have never known about before – opening doors for them to better themselves and society.”

Recognition for Efforts
Last year, Atterberg was recognized for his efforts and selected as the Nebraska Farm Bureau Teacher of the Year. And this year, he has received national recognition from the American Farm Bureau Federation being named a White-Reinhardt Fund for Education Scholarship recipient. Atterberg will go on a trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference where he will also be presenting a session entitled “Agriculture in the City” on connecting agriculture lessons to state and national curriculum and lessons that are already used.

“Thank you to Farm Bureau and the Ag in the Classroom program! It’s a huge honor,” said Atterberg. “The impact this will have on incorporating more agricultural lessons for my students will be tremendous!”

“I get to go to the National Ag in the Classroom Conference to network and collaborate with other teachers and organizations to bring more hands-on agriculture lessons to my classroom. My hopes are to bring more lessons to life for my students,” continued Atterberg.

About White-Reinhardt Fund for Education Scholarship
The White-Reinhardt Fund for Education Scholarship Program provides travel expense for educators employed by a school system to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference to gain information to expand their outreach to students regarding food, fiber, shelter and renewable fuels. The White-Reinhardt Fund for Education is a special project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture in cooperation with the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. It was established to honor two former chairs of that committee, Berta White and Linda Reinhardt, who were leaders in the national effort to improve agricultural literacy.

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