OKLAHOMA CITY – Farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land.
Teachers are stewards of the children they have been entrusted to nurture and educate.
With the new school year at hand, several Oklahoma teachers recently commented about how Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom helps them to not only tell, but show their students how agriculture is a part of their daily lives.
Mary Lassiter, who teaches at Pleasant Vale Elementary, was raised at Hunter in northern Oklahoma on a wheat and cattle farm.
“The family farm was our primary source of food for our table, pretty self-sustaining,” Lassiter said. “I use the Ag in the Classroom curriculum all the time. The students have such a better concept of the cycle of life, how their table at home and their daily life are affected by agriculture, as well as the future of our society if we don’t care for our earth.”
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a joint project of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The purpose of Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is to help familiarize Oklahoma school children with Oklahoma’s food and fiber industry.
The Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom curriculum integrates agricultural topics and ag-related activities to teach language arts, mathematics, science, health and nutrition, social studies, visual arts and music.
Johnny Mitchell, who teaches eighth through 12th grades at Oaks Mission Schools, grew up around agriculture at Hulbert in eastern Oklahoma.
“We were milking a few cows and selling the milk and cream,” Mitchell said. “We were picking and selling fruit from our trees, butchering our own livestock and chickens and canning our own garden produce. We would get up early and work late and we were thankful for living the country life.
“I’ve used some of what Ag in the Classroom does since I started teaching. (I’m) trying my best to inspire my students to learn to feed their family.”
Dora Fuqua teaches at Canton. From sixth to 12th grades she grew up on a farm near the western Oklahoma community. One way she uses Ag in the Classroom is by having her fifth and sixth grade students work together to raise a garden.
“I loved living on the farm and most pleasant memories are of this time of life where we all worked together. Hard work, but fun,” Fuqua said. “Now I live three miles from that farm. I love that my kids are country kids, enjoying some of the same things.
“Kids need to know how important ag is in our lives.”
Shelia Amos, who teaches at Pocola Middle School in eastern Oklahoma, agrees and believes Ag in the Classroom helps provide that knowledge in a variety of ways.
“It has improved interest in science and math, as well as giving me more time with the lesson plans already written,” Amos said. “The students are learning where their food comes from.
“They need to know how important Oklahoma is to exports and the economy.”
Teachers also talked about the lessons in character that emerge from an agricultural way of life.
Teresa Brunnemer, who was raised on a farm, teaches at Morrison Elementary School in northern Oklahoma.
“Seeing our extended family working together instilled a great work ethic into me at a young age,” Brunnemer said. “My favorite memories are going to the wheat field to deliver food with my mom and grandma.
“I love sharing agriculture with my students.”
Lana Merz, who teaches at Canute Public Schools in western Oklahoma, said Ag in the Classroom has “brought life into my classroom.”
“It helps me to get my students excited about learning,” Merz said. “Matter of fact, sometimes they don’t realize that they are learning. They are just having fun.”
Judy Mullen said her students at Pleasant Vale Elementary love seeing seeds “sprout into food we can eat” and several have gotten their parents to plant small gardens at home. Jenny Harris, who also teaches at Pleasant Vale Elementary, said, “Living on a cattle, wheat and hay farm taught me how to be responsible for things other than myself. It’s a great feeling.”
In southern Oklahoma, Christie Puckett teaches at Maysville Public Schools. Her father was a butcher for a local store and “he processed beef for farmers locally.” Also, her family always had a garden.
She found Ag in the Classroom while searching online for new material.
Today, she integrates the program with science lessons.
Puckett was asked why she thinks it is important for her students and those in other communities to realize what Oklahoma agriculture means not only locally and regionally, but nationally and internationally.
“Because ag is the root, foundation of all we do, touch and taste,” Puckett said.
For more information about Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom, go to www.agclassroom.org/ok
Editor’s Note: Bryan Painter, an award-winnning journalist who wrote this press release, now works as a public information officer at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.