Each month we feature a Kansas teacher who has excelled at incorporating agriculture into their classroom curriculum. Check back each month for inspiration and new ideas on ways to share the rich story of agriculture with your students!
How do you make an already great school even better? You encourage collaboration between grades and teachers.
And that’s exactly what two teachers at Service Valley Charter Academy (SVCA), part of the USD 504 Oswego School District, have done.
Sheila Robison (below, right) and Rochelle Sheddrick (left), both teachers at SVCA, have been team teaching agriculture projects for several years. Robison is a sixth through eighth grade math and science teacher, while Sheddrick teaches fourth grade. During their ag projects, the fourth graders work closely with the seventh and eighth grade students.
It might be surprising to some how these very different age groups are able to work together so closely.
“The students enjoy working with other age groups,” Robison and Sheddrick commented. “It’s a form of peer tutoring.”
One of the biggest ways the teaching team incorporates agriculture in their classrooms is through their annual Agriculture and Environmental Fair. The fair is an opportunity for students to engage in project-based learning and adapt the projects to their own interests.
In addition to preparing projects for the annual Agriculture and Environmental Fair, Robison and Sheddrick’s students start all of the tomato and pepper plants in the SVCA greenhouse that will be grown and sold in the annual plant sale. Both of these events take place on the same day. The dedication these teachers exhibit with their students stem from their own experience as students with good teachers.
“We each pursued our careers in education because of the inspiration and role models we’ve had in teachers,” they commented.
Robison and Sheddrick believe it is vital for children to learn about agriculture at a young age.
“They will be the next generation to take over the stewardship of our land,” they said. “We have to instill the values of hard work and commitment to our community.”
Using agriculture in the classroom only helps their students learn valuable lessons that they will carry with them when they become adults. Sheddrick herself learned some of those valuable lessons as a child growing up on a farm in Kansas. She credits her upbringing with instilling in her a strong work ethic learned through the proper care of animals and plants. She strives to impart a similar work ethic in her students.
Robison grew up in rural Kansas but didn’t have much direct exposure to agriculture until she met her husband and his family who run a farming operation. Her interest and passion for agriculture developed through various professional development opportunities using hands-on ag experiences that she continues to incorporate in her classroom today.
Both women attribute their teaching methods to their backgrounds.
“It’s not straight from a text book,” they said. “It’s authentic learning, where students literally get their hands dirty and are directly involved in their own learning.”
Robison and Sheddrick encourage their peers to work closely with other teachers while also utilizing the resources and people within the community. Collaboration with community members and local farmers has allowed them to enrich their student’s learning experience.
In 2016 the pair, along with other members of the SVCA teaching staff, attended the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference in Phoenix, Ariz. In June 2017, they will attend the KFAC “Plants and Animals Have a Place in the Classroom” summer institute in Parsons.
Robison has been teaching at SVCA for five years. Sheddrick has been teaching for 18 years.
For more information about SVCA, visit http://www.usd504.org/vnews/display.v/ART/503ada7be83e7.
For more information about KFAC and professional development opportunities or resources, visit www.ksagclassroom.org.