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 may be cliché to say dynamite comes in small packages but that phrase couldn’t be closer to the truth when describing Kelli Livermore, an elementary science teacher at Florence Wilson Elementary in Garden City.
Livermore is a dynamic, passionate and dedicated educator, beginning her 27th year of teaching – her entire career spent at Garden City.
“I have lived in Garden City my whole life,” Livermore said. “I’ve taught first grade, writing and now elementary science. My current position is the greatest job I have ever had!”
Livermore loves inspiring children to care for animals and our planet. She is adamant that teaching science and agriculture go hand-in-hand and consistently tries to bring a message of conservation into the lessons she teaches.
“Everything we do has some sort of connection with agriculture and educating children about it is of utmost importance,” says Livermore.
Livermore is deeply rooted in the Garden City community, which is densely populated with farmers, ranchers and other agriculture businesses. Her family has always been involved with agriculture in some form or another. Her father worked at an area feedlot and is a butcher by trade. Many of her family members are involved in farming.
However, agriculture may not have always been an obvious choice for Livermore.
“If you had asked the people I grew up with if they thought I would be involved in agricultural education, they would give a resounding no!” Livermore said. “I was a little too preppy to get dirty, but not anymore!”
Livermore shares that using agriculture in her classroom has given her a renewed excitement for teaching. She is constantly trying to access new resources and ideas related to agriculture in an effort to best educate her students.
So just how did agriculture find it’s way into her classroom?
Livermore participated in a summer institute held by the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (KFAC) in Garden City in 2015 and 2016 and hit the ground running.
“I left the workshop wanting to figure out how to incorporate agriculture into every aspect of science education,” she said. “That class helped me see that everything we do in Garden City and the surrounding area can be connected back to agriculture in some way.”
Since participating in the summer institute, Livermore has made it a priority to include agriculture concepts into her curriculum whenever possible. Throughout the past two years she has introduced agriculture into Earth and physical science, where she discusses the importance of land conservation and what it means to be a good steward of the land. This year, she’ll add tractors to her lessons on force and motion in physical science. A pedal tractor pull may even be in the works.
“With each lesson I teach, I try to create a connection to agriculture that students will see and hopefully they will come to realize that without it, we truly have nothing.”
In May 2017, Livermore took her enthusiasm for agriculture education a step further and organized the first Agriculture Day at her school for over 400 students at Florence Wilson Elementary. Students rotated through 11, 15-minute sessions covering various agriculture topics including pollination, planting pumpkin seeds, agriculture careers, soil science, farm animals and nutrition.
“It was very rewarding to watch students begin to understand that their community not only has an impact on the citizens of Garden City, but also people all over the United States and other countries,” Livermore said. “They have a newfound respect for agriculture.”
Livermore is currently participating on a writing team led by KFAC with other teachers across the state to create new lesson plans about wheat genetics and plant growth. The lesson plans are slated for release during the fall 2017 semester.
For Livermore, finding ways to challenge herself and continue growing in her profession is what makes her a better teacher.
“I think the key to being an effective teacher is to never quit learning yourself,” Livermore said.
Her passion and enthusiasm for agriculture education are contagious and her target audience is her students.
“Hopefully by harnessing their enthusiasm, I can create a spark in some of my students to become part of the greatest industry in the world – agriculture.”
Livermore can be reached at email@example.com.