LINCOLN, NE – The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation has selected two teachers as their Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom 2018 Teachers of the Year. The Teacher of the Year is awarded to two outstanding teachers that incorporate agriculture into their classroom through innovative ideas and lessons.
Stephanie Wolf, a special education teacher at Brady Public Schools in Brady and Jennifer Johnson, a third-grade teacher at Sutton Public Schools in Sutton were honored.
“Both Stephanie and Jennifer demonstrate how teachers can use agriculture as the context for hands-on teaching in a standards-based curriculum. They are engaging the next generation in critical thinking about where their food, fiber and fuel comes from, and we are happy to recognize and reward their important work,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
Wolf 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,” said Wolf. “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 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,” she continued.
Each teacher is being awarded an all-expense paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Portland, ME on June 26-29. The conference brings educators together from all over the United States to collaborate on how to incorporate agriculture into their curriculum and engage students. Teachers will have the opportunity to attend tours of local ag businesses and farms in the area.