by Holly Lynne Killian
Each year kindergarten through sixth grade teachers from around the state attend the Alabama Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Institute. Attendees at the the institute are treated to farm tours, workshops, and seminars that show ways to incorporate agriculture into all aspects of their curriculum, be it math, science, history, or language arts. This past year, nine teachers from Jefferson County attended the workshop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. These teachers gained not only information to take back to their classrooms, but also actual resources to share with their students.
For teachers Lindsey Sellers and Ashley Dempsey of Bagley Elementary, their time at the institute has paid off in so many ways already with the start of the new school year. One of the best rewards for first grade teacher Lindsey Sellers is the countless books and educational materials she has received as a result of attending the institute. “I've loved having ample books and educational videos on hand to read to and show my students. If they have questions about growing pumpkins, or want to know more about farm animals, then I have the resources to show them,” she states, excitedly.
Before the conference, Lindsey had very few reading books related to agriculture in her classroom. While now her favorite is First Peas to the Table, she has numerous books to choose from each day. “I have enough to fill up an entire shelf and my kids are loving them!”
Second grade teacher Ashley Dempsey could not agree more with her classroom neighbor Sellers. While her students may be familiar with agriculture, seeing cows in their community on a daily basis, the educational resources reinforce their lessons. Dempsey goes on to explain, “Typically when we ask students where milk comes from they will reply: ‘the store!’. The educational video gave them a wonderful illustration of how milk gets from the farm to our home. It was wonderful seeing my students make that connection.”
Since the institute, Sellers and Dempsey have gained a new understanding of the importance of incorporating agriculture into their curriculum. In addition, they have a broadened respect and appreciation for farmers and all that they provide. Both are grateful they chose to attend, with Sellers adding she cannot wait to attend again. For teachers who are unsure if the summer institute is worth it, Sellers and Dempsey both agree, “The workshop is fantastic! You will not regret attending.” With both classrooms displaying their newly acquired resources, Dempsey goes on to add, “You will learn so much and have a new perspective of agriculture. The students love learning about all the different types of farming and utilizing the hands on resources, and I enjoy teaching it!”
To learn more about the Alabama Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Institute, visit: http://www.alabamaaitc.org/, or contact the Jefferson County Farmers Federation office.