Pumpkin pie, ice cream are teaching aids Instructors learn to bring agriculture into classroom

July 14, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

In her years as a fourth-grade teacher, Jeanne Mueller has created a classroom where students make pumpkin pies, watch sheep shearers at work, write about the merits of pigs as pets and get homework on popcorn.

To the children, it's fun. To Mueller, it's agriculture.

Yesterday, Mueller shared her tips for infusing agriculture into every subject -- from math to English -- with 54 Maryland teachers enrolled in the ninth annual Ag in the Classroom Summer Workshop. The instructors, 11 of whom came from Baltimore and Baltimore County, paid $100 to attend the five-day conference in Edgewood.

Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation officials, who run the event, hope to inspire more teachers to follow Mueller's example. Their goal is to educate a public that has little understanding of agriculture and scant interest in it.

"Agriculture impacts their lives every day," said Laurie Adelhardt, assistant to the Maryland secretary of agriculture and one of the conference speakers. Teachers see other reasons for bringing agriculture into schools. "It's an exciting way to learn," said Mueller, who has taught at Liberty Elementary School in Frederick County for 10 years and is taking a leave of absence to work with the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation.

As teachers listened yesterday, Mueller went over what is -- for her -- a typical school year.

Students learn about cows in September by visiting a dairy farm. In October, children focus on pumpkins -- making pumpkin pies, learning about circumferences while measuring the vegetable and writing creative stories about what their lives would be like if they were pumpkins.

Corn and turkeys are subjects for November and, in December, the class reads about Christmas tree farming, studies the life cycle of a pine tree, debates the pros and cons of live trees and artificial ones and paints wooden tree models.

After teachers in Mueller's audience brainstormed ways they could incorporate such ideas into their classes, they did jTC project of their own: making soft ice cream with only a couple of ingredients and a small plastic bag.

"I would definitely do something like this," said Kathy Bivons, a sixth-grade science teacher at St. Ursula's School in Parkville, as she vigorously shook her bag. "[Students] would love this. I love it."

Bivons and four other St. Ursula teachers attending the conference are concerned that their students don't know very much about agriculture -- and that what they do know is a stereotype.

The instructors won't have to go out of their way to put agricultural examples in their lesson plans. Fred Doepkens, who teaches agro-science at Hereford Middle School in Monkton and conducted a workshop, said it's really not complicated.

"Almost anything you pick up or use in your classroom, you can find some connection with agriculture," he said.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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