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!
It’s rare that a person decides on a career in the second grade and actually follows through with that decision.
But that’s exactly how it happened for Elise Woodbury, a first grade teacher at West Franklin Elementary in Williamsburg, Kan.
“I knew I wanted to teach when I was a second grader,” said Woodbury. “It’s truly something I always wanted to do and I had many great role models and teachers that reinforced my choice along the way.”
One of those role models was her dad, who was an ag educator for 38 years. Woodbury herself has been teaching for 26 years.
Her agricultural roots run deep, having grown up on a cattle and crop farm and being heavily involved in FFA in high school and college. She married a cow/calf producer and she continues to be an active participant in the family farm alongside her husband, two children and her brother-in-law. The Woodbury’s raise cattle, soybeans, corn, wheat and forage sorghum.
As a cattle and crop producer, Woodbury recognizes the critical need for her students to know where their food comes from and is able to help them make that connection.
“Today’s generation of students and their families are further removed from the farm,” she said. “They need to understand agriculture and know where their food and supplies come from and how that would change if we don’t support American farmers.”
Over the past three years Woodbury has incorporated lesson plans that teach students how many things they use each day that come from production agriculture. She attributes her success in doing this to her farm background.
The staff of West Franklin Elementary school typically gathers to brainstorm topics they intend on covering over the school year. Their “all-in” approach to agriculture in the classroom has allowed them to go more in-depth by providing agriculture enrichment classes in recent years. These are built into their everyday science classes. Each week, students spend one class period in agriculture enrichment taught by KFAC teacher award winner, Audra McCurdy. Then, each classroom focuses in on that topic throughout the week to allow students to better understand what it is they learned in the agriculture enrichment course. Woodbury says it's McCurdy's leadership that really makes them successful as a staff.
"We couldn't do it without Audra's leadership," she said.
Woodbury says her students really look forward to their weekly agricultural topic and the activities they do to learn about it.
“They love that a lot of the learning is hands-on or involves activities other than paper and pencil.”
While Woodbury has her own agricultural background and experiences to draw from, she says that integrating agriculture into a classroom can be easily done, regardless of a teacher’s experience.
“Start simple and then brainstorm how you can add to and build on what you are already doing,” she suggests. “If you already teach a unit on plants, then try adding a crop grown in Kansas such as wheat or corn.”
Woodbury finds a lot of useful materials on the KFAC website, www.ksagclassroom.org and has also attended one of the KFAC summer institutes.
“If you have never taken one of the workshops, I highly recommend it because they are excellent!” she said.
The second grader that decided to be a teacher all those years ago should be pretty proud of the way she incorporates her passion and respect for agriculture into her classroom today.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and consumers,” said Woodbury. “We need to teach them at a young age and give them correct information about agriculture including where their food products come from and that they are safe.”