By Amelia Miller
LANSING — During National Agriculture week, March 18-24, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) announced Maureen Wickenheiser of St. Patrick Elementary School in Carleton as its educator of the year. The award will be formally presented at MFB’s 99th Annual Meeting in November.
The Educator of the Year will receive a scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference as well as a $500 classroom grant from the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Wickenheiser incorporates agricultural elements into her teaching of fifth- through eighth-grade science lessons as well as in her coordinating of preschool through fourth-grade science lab classes. By conducting experiments emphasizing the agricultural and environmental impacts of everyday activities, she challenges her students to think critically.
Wickenheiser uses nearby Stoney Creek as an outdoor learning lab to teach students concepts of soil health, erosion, water quality, weather and uses GPS and satellite technology to map the land and waterway.
In 2017, under Maureen’s leadership, three students were selected to participate in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Symposium. Supported by NASA, NOAA and the National Science Foundation, this program provides opportunities for students to participate in real world data collection and scientific research connected with grade-level appropriate learning.
“Maureen conducts inspiring hands-on lessons while skillfully integrating technology,” said Mary Janssens, Monroe County Farm Bureau Promotion and Education chair. “She fosters meaningful relationships with students, staff and parents. Her passion for agriculture and excellence in the classroom intersects while integrating agriculture and farming concepts into her curriculum.”
To teach animal and food science concepts, Maureen uses her own sheep and goats in demonstrations for her students. Students compared the properties of goat’s milk and cow’s milk, including fat content, while learning about the process of homogenization. Each year Maureen’s students demonstrate their knowledge to educate participants at the Monroe County Earth Day event.
Maureen and her husband Francis raise crops, sheep and goats on their farm near Carleton. Maureen holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan-Dearborn and teacher education certification from University of Detroit Mercy. In addition to her school students, Maureen volunteers to assist the Boy Scouts and Monroe County 4-H as well as served as a guest lecturer at Eastern Michigan University’s teacher education program.
MFB’s Educator of the Year award recognizes teachers who excel at integrating agricultural concepts into school curricula and who challenge students to develop critical thinking skills through the analysis of agricultural issues and information.
Sponsorship for this award is provided by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)(3) governed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, which positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.