Wyoming Ag In the Classroom: Not Just for Elementary Students AnymoreWritten by Wyoming Ag In the Classroom
Wyoming Ag In the Classroom (WAIC) would like to thank all the supporters who have helped us achieve our goal of integrating agriculture and natural resources into the classroom for the past 25 years. The rich history and courageous leaders are worth celebrating and we hope you can join us at the Wyoming Stock Growers Convention on Dec. 13 for a night of remembering where we have been and to be a part of our exciting future.
It will be a chance to meet the new staff. Jessie Dafoe, Executive Director, lives in Cheyenne with her husband. Jessie grew up on the Berry Hereford Ranch north of Cheyenne and most recently worked for the Wyoming Conservation Alliance out of the law office of Hageman and Brighton. Dafoe graduated from the University of Wyoming with an agriculture business degree and served as a UW Ag Ambassador.
Jennifer Nehl, the new Education Director, lives in Sundance with her husband and two sons. Nehl has a Masters of Art’s in educational leadership with K-12 administrative endorsement and 17 years of instructional experience in the public school system. She has been working with various communities and districts across the states of South Dakota and Wyoming for the past four years delivering professional development.
With the new staff on board, WAIC is developing a comprehensive K-12 curriculum and will pilot the first strand in the fall of 2012. Students become our businessmen, community leaders and legislators without understanding the value and role agriculture plays in our daily life and economy. Our goal is to bridge the gap.
The vision is to start at the kindergarten level and build on the concepts and values of the agriculture industry each year. When students graduate from high school we want them not only to know where their food and fiber comes from, but how it gets from the pasture to the plate. We want students to know where the electricity comes from when they charge their laptop and why safe, affordable energy is so important. WAIC doesn’t intend to tell students how to think, rather, to provide all the information and let the students decide for themselves.
Every day, classrooms are bombarded with propaganda. We are joining the debate and enabling students to use their critical thinking skills and find their own voice. Not only do we want students to develop an understanding of the agriculture and natural resource sector, we want to pass on the values the industry lives by every day. WAIC aims to instill the belief that every business deal is handled with integrity, your word is a contract and work doesn’t always end when the whistle blows at five.
It is a daunting task to develop a curriculum to encompass everything; we will depend on many resources to meet this challenge. We know the pressures teachers face now are more stringent than ever with constant testing and standards. We are writing all curriculum to align with the current standards and benchmarks.
The new WAIC curriculum will be designed specifically to educate students in a global agricultural education community, proficiently utilizing 21st Century skills employing the new “4 Rs” of education: Relevance, Results, Relationship and Rigor. With the recent adoption of the National Common Core Standards on June 16, 2010 by the Wyoming Department of Education, educator’s instructional practice and how students participate in learning with their peers – locally and globally – will greatly impact classroom instruction. Students enjoy exercising collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, creativity and innovation. These very essential “Cs” make up the core knowledge instruction of the 21st Century skills where students learn the essential skills for success in today’s world by preparing them for future roles, jobs and careers.
This new curriculum does not stop with the development of lessons. WAIC will also provide onsite training for teachers with a professional development component prior to, during and after instruction in the classroom. WAIC will aid teachers in bringing students to the field and visits from specialists to the classroom. The hands-on learning and interaction will be a unique and welcomed change of pace for teachers and students.
An endeavor this large is not possible on our own. We are calling on individuals, industry, academia, experts and government agencies’ knowledge to help develop the curriculum. WAIC does not view this as an isolated project, but a chance for the agriculture community to join together and help grow our next Wyoming generation. We appreciate all the support and hope to see you in December!