Texas Neighbors Winter 2017 : Page 10
TEXAS NEIGHBORS | WINTER 2017 WWW.TEXASFARMBUREAU.ORG
AG Awareness in an Urban Classroom
TFB names Agriculture in the Classroom Outstanding Teacher
Engaged. Eager. Excited. That describes the students in Hillarie Rollins’ first grade classroom at Forest Ridge Elementary in College Station. Through much planning, organization and coordination, Rollins is fostering a love for agriculture in a school full of urban students.
Like many of her students, Rollins grew up in an urban community. She didn’t realize how agriculture intertwined with almost all facets of daily life until she continued her education as an adult.
Rollins uses her nontraditional agricultural experience to expose her students to agriculture from a young age. She cultivates eager learners by incorporating hands-on activities and experiences into her classroom all year long.
Her exceptional efforts to incorporate agriculture into her classroom earned her the Agriculture in the Classroom Outstanding Teacher award from Texas Farm Bureau.
Rollins facilitated the creation of a school-wide flower garden, which her students plant and care for.
“We have parents and kids that go eat lunch out in the flower garden in our courtyard,” Rollins said. “It’s really made it a more enjoyable area for them.”
Her students also plant and care for a small vegetable garden during the fall and spring and multiple classes get involved. The kids get to be a part of every step of the process and learn about different types of soil.
Using materials donated by Home Depot, her students helped build three raised beds for the vegetable garden. They worked out grids deciding what to plant, where and how far apart the rows needed to be. They also helped pour the soil, till and get it ready to plant.
“We have six teachers so each bed has two classes that take care of it, and we take turns throughout the week who goes to water, weed or harvest,” Rollins said.
They use a wide variety of seeds and plants including herbs, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce and broccoli.
The growth development of the tomatoes has the greatest impact on the students, Rollins said.
“The tomato by far is the most exciting for the kiddos to watch,” Rollins said. “They love watching the process of all the different flowers and then all of a sudden is the little green fruit. And they watch it grow bigger and they can’t wait for it turn red and they get so excited.”
Every student gets to enjoy the fruits of their labor after harvest. They even share with other students on campus and with the faculty.
“Last year, as the tomatoes grew, each class got to pick a few of them and cut them up and let the kids try them,” Rollins said. “When we harvested our lettuce, tomatoes and broccoli last spring, we made salad for our principal.”
They also used the herbs they grew to make herb-infused water for the campus.
Her students also learn the value of responsibility and how to nurture and care for animals. They study the life cycle of chicks inside the egg and how to best care for them while they incubate and watch them hatch.
“We started off with just one incubator in my classroom and all of first grade would come through my class to watch,” Rollins said. “Last year, we received a grant and purchased incubators for all the first grade classrooms so now all the kids get to experience that.”
She has also a saltwater aquarium in her classroom which provides a glimpse into the ocean for students to begin understanding its value as a natural resource. Her students are responsible for feeding and cleaning it.
“The saltwater aquarium, we decided to put in our little meeting area right outside of all of our classrooms so all of the first graders can see it,” Rollins said.
The impact of Rollins’ efforts in the classroom have gone well beyond what she could have planned.
“A lot of the projects have branched out and touched and affected a lot more people than I originally thought,” Rollins said. “We have fourth grade leaders coming in to help. So it’s really grown from one tiny idea to affecting a wide variety of kiddos throughout the school.”
Rollins credits TFB’s Summer Agricultural Institute and the Planting the Seed program with her accomplishments in the classroom.
“They provided me with not only the lesson plans but the teachers got to do it,” Rollins said. “And that’s really powerful because once you learn how to do something, you teach it to somebody. That’s just real proof in the learning…that’s what I try to instill in my students every day.”
Rollins will attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Missouri next summer as part of winning the award at the state level.
In today’s technology-driven world, she has ignited a passion for agriculture in kids who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise. Her commitment has helped initiate a lifelong love in them for agriculture.
“By bringing ag concepts into the classroom, it has inspired students to go home and plant their own backyard gardens, have conversations about where their food comes from and even encourages some parents to become aware of the delicate interdependent relationship we have with agriculture,” Rollins said.
Rollins encourages other teachers to reach out to the community for resources to help incorporate agriculture into their lesson plans.
“Branch out and try and find more hands-on approaches to teaching your curriculum,” Rollins said.