Out of the fields and into the classrooms

Workshop brings lessons from the farm to teachers

July 18, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

It's only July, but Emily Jorss already knows all of the projects her second-grade class will finish before the end of the next school year.

From making crayons out of soybeans to cooking corn, the Frederick County teacher intends to use agriculture to teach her 8- and 9-year-old students history, English, math and art.

"I teach in a rural area," Jorss said. "Anything that has to do with agriculture is already known by the children."

Which is why she wants to use agriculture to spark their interest.

Nearly all of the 42 teachers who attended the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation's 10th annual "Ag in the Classroom" workshop last week plan to coax students into learning through agriculture.

Angelique Hunter, a fourth-grade teacher from Worcester County, said the curriculum offered at the five-day conference will pay off since many of her students live on chicken farms.

"Agriculture has a $17.8 billion impact on the state annually," said Steve Connelly, executive director of the Agricultural Education Foundation. That figure comes from the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service.

Connelly said the sole purpose of the foundation -- a division of the Maryland Department of Agriculture -- is to teach the public about agriculture.

"Agriculture is the perfect medium to teach math, history, language and arts," he said. "Soybeans and corn can fit into the history of geography of Maryland since the crops have historically grown here at different times."

The workshop is an effort to get agriculture out of the fields and into the classroom. Participants pay $100 for five nights' lodging, meals, field trips, videos, handouts and seminars. Teachers can attend the conference only once.

This year's conference, at the Comfort Inn on Route 140 in Westminster, was attended by elementary, middle and high school teachers. Nearly two-thirds were from the Eastern Shore.

During 30- or 60-minute seminars, participants made soybean crayons, spun and dyed wool, learned about worms and composting, as well as other methods of using agriculture in classrooms.

They also toured Baugher's Orchard and Packing Plant in Westminster, made scarecrows at the Carroll County Farm Museum and ate a lunch prepared by the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club.

Yvonne Bogert, a first-grade teacher from Dorchester County, attended the conference with her husband, Randy, a high school art teacher. They said they were impressed with the seminars, but noted their favorite event was touring Baugher's farm.

"[Allan Baugher] took so much time explaining the changes in farming," said Yvonne Bogert. "He talked about people he employed and explained the chemicals he used and decision making in farming."

While cutting stems off carnations to make a corsage, Randy Bogert said he planned to take the agriculture theme back to his art students.

Although the conference is geared for first- through fifth-grade teachers, Bogert -- one of the few high school teachers in attendance -- said he would have his North Dorchester High School teens arrange flowers and use textiles and horticulture to create art.

While the Bogerts arranged flowers in one conference room one morning last week, Jorss and Hunter were in the next room using soybeans to make crayons, slime and lip balm.

Led by Jeff Webb, a fifth-grade teacher at Vienna Elementary in Salisbury, participants colored and shrieked in excitement as they stirred slime with a Popsicle stick.

"I like science, and they asked me to do a presentation about soybeans last year and I found this kit from Indiana University," he said, adding that soybean education is a regular part of the education in much of the Midwest.

He said making crayons and slime have been popular during his school's fall festival. During this October holiday -- he describes it as a replacement for Halloween -- Webb teaches the entire school how to create soybean products.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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