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2011 TEACHERS OF THE YEAR
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JILL WALTERS

 

As a fourth grade teacher at Cody Elementary School in North Platte, Jill Walters believes that agriculture brings the most enthusiasm from her students. When former students come back to visit they always have positive comments about agriculture. They remember the specific projects that they enjoyed doing - that is the key word, doing. Jill's students were actively involved in the learning process and most of the time the lessons included hands-on activities. Each student could pursue their own interests to learn more about our food system and the important role Nebraska agriculture is to the economy of the state.

One of Jill's famous projects to reinforce knowledge about the state's physical features is the Nebraska Cookie Project. Each student has a sugar cookie in the shape of Nebraska and the students decorate the cookie with food products to show the till plains, grasslands, sand hills, rivers and other aspects of their state. The learning continues as they enjoy eating the cookie while engaging in a discussion of the many agricultural products that were needed to make the cookie.

Jill's students learn the steps involved in getting a product from a farm or ranch to the dinner plate and understand each step - production, processing, marketing and distribution. Their favorite step is marketing as each student invents a new food item. Each year Jill is convinced that one day she will see a former student's product in a grocery store.

Through Jill's variety of activities and lessons, she is preparing her students to have an understanding and an awareness of the essential role agriculture plays in their state and throughout the world. Her students know that agriculture is vital to their lives and the future of our country. 


KATHY WILKE 

 

If you could visit Kathy Wilke's fifth grade classroom at Randolph Public School, you would see agriculture concepts on the bulletin board, students using a Smart Board to take a virtual trip to the farm and perhaps a community leader showing a core sample of soil from the playground. Kathy incorporates agriculture throughout the school year in all the basic subject areas.

In the fall, the local FFA Chapter presents the students with a resource on Farm Safety. This is not just for students that live on a farm, but for urban students when they take a field trip to a farm. The FFA students also help the fifth graders decorate grocery bags with farm scenes or farm safety messages to be placed in the stores to help consumers be aware of agriculture in their community.

A Resource Soil Scientist speaks to the students about different kinds of soil, causes of erosion and farming techniques to control erosion. The next step is for the fifth graders to stimulate erosion on soil. They use paint trays of soil to show how water, wind and ice can move soil by using a spray bottle with water, hair dryer and ice cubes. How do you stop erosion? Try planting grass seed on the soil.

To help the students understand the Nebraska aquifer they constructed "edible aquifers." This showed the process of how well water can be affected by drought and pollution. To further understand the water system, a field trip was planned to visit the local water treatment plant. Students were able to see first-hand how water and sewage is processed. In each of Kathy's lessons, the students always had a hands-on activity, community leader or a field trip to help them understand a science and agriculture concept.

Kathy would always emphasize to her students that they must make good decisions about the use of the water and land, because of its importance to our food system. "Each individual is responsible for their choices that can affect the quality of life for everyone and each one of us must be good stewards of our natural resources," Kathy tells her students. 

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