Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Ag Promotion Committee
and the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program
have selected two teachers as their 2013 Nebraska Farm Bureau Teachers of the Year.
Kevin Atterberg, an eighth grade teacher at Culler Middle School in Lincoln, Neb., and Angie Shaw, a kindergarten through fifth grade library media specialist at Lincoln Heights and Longfellow Elementary Schools in Scottsbluff, Neb., were honored.
"These teachers demonstrate how agriculture can be used to meet state educational standards. Each of these teachers provides their students with real hands-on learning experiences in such a manner that it relates to their students’ everyday lives," Deanna Karmazin, state coordinator of the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program, said Feb. 11.
AGRICULTURE IN THE CITY
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.
Both teachers will be presented with an award recognizing their achievement and will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the 2013 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference
, set for June 25-28, in Minneapolis, Minn.