Michigan Farm Bureau’s Educator of the Year, Maureen Wickenheiser of St. Patrick Elementary School in Carleton, Mich., joined more than 400 educators June 26-29 for the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization’s (NAITCO) conference in Portland, Maine. Following the theme “Agriculture for ME on Land and Sea” the conference provided educators from across the country with resources to increase their student’s understanding of how agriculture affects daily life. Maureen’s conference attendance was sponsored by Agroliquid through a partnership with the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
“Students today are, on average, at least three generations removed from the farm. Their knowledge of where food comes from is often gained from television, social media or even video games; whether it’s factual or not, said Maureen. I gained strategies and lessons on how we can make connections for students to the different types of agriculture and that it impacts their life.”
The three-day conference offered workshops for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, ranging from maple syrup production, genetic engineering, and aquaculture, to sustainability, food labels, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Each workshop provided teachers innovative ways to use agriculture as a real-world connection to teach curriculum-required concepts. Travel sessions visited agribusiness and research facilities, farm and food tours, and even an optional lobster bake. Additionally, participants heard keynote addresses from Maine Aquaculture Association Executive Director Sabastian Belle, Maine Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, and Roger Doiron, founder of the Maine-based nonprofit SeedMoney.
Wickenheiser plans to place more emphasis on the connections between farmers and foods through using virtual farm visits to help students learn more about their immediate and global community.
“Agricultural education and the Agriculture in the Classroom program is so important, not only to the individuals participating in the educational programs but to the agriculture industry as a whole,” said Wickenheiser. “The students in schools today are our future buyers, voters and influencers. We need them to be knowledgeable about modern agriculture.”
Wickenheiser teaches fifth and sixth grade and is the science coordinator for preschool through fifth grade at St. Patrick Elementary School in Carleton, Michigan. Maureen and her husband live near Carleton where they raise both crops and livestock. Maureen was named Michigan Farm Bureau’s Educator of the Year earlier this year.
The National Agriculture in the Classroom organization is a nonprofit representing most state Agriculture in the Classroom programs around the country. Its mission is to educate K-12 teachers and students about the importance of agriculture by providing them with materials, recognition and enrichment opportunities to demonstrate how agriculture can be used effectively to teach reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
Michigan Farm Bureau is home to our state’s Ag in the Classroom programming, as a member of the National Ag in the Classroom organization. Through sponsorship by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, we are able to provide agriculture-based lesson materials for teachers and farmer-volunteers to teach across all grade levels.