SAI Reflections: Marsha Reynolds

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Agriculture Institute

By Marsha Reynolds

As a fifth-grade science and language arts teacher at Knoles Elementary School in Flagstaff, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the 2017 Summer Agriculture Institute (through the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension). I am extremely grateful for this experience and to the sponsors who help support this program. I hope to implement many of the things I learned into my classroom instruction this upcoming school year.

When I applied for the Institute, I was asked to give a reason for wanting to participate. Since I grew up in a southern Indiana farming community, I was somewhat familiar with agriculture there. I had learned to detassel corn as a teenager and worked at a strawberry farm in the summers during my first few years of teaching. Not having any background with Arizona agriculture, I wanted to learn more about it because I figured it would be very different than the Midwest. During the weeklong nstitute, I learned so much about the diversity of Arizona agriculture to share with my students.

I was amazed at how much “science” is involved in today’s farming and ranching practices. From the insect and pest studies to irrigation and water conservation to production management and economics, I am realizing how many different ways I can integrate this new knowledge into my instruction. In Arizona, conservation practices, not only with water but also with the land, are a big part of the whole process of planting, feeding, harvesting, and production. I was especially impressed with those farms and agricultural businesses that were implementing programs to recycle and reuse water and waste. This new information will help me with one of the goals in my classroom: to teach students how to reduce and recycle waste in all that we do in the classroom. I am hopeful that I can incorporate examples from these agricultural practices that I observed during the institute.

Along with the new background knowledge that I have received for my classroom, several sample lesson plans were shared with us on the last day to help us incorporate some of the things we learned about agriculture. I intend to review and incorporate some of these lessons in to my curriculum. In the past few years, my classroom has focused on sustainability at varying levels, so I am particularly interested in using a sustainability unit entitled Journey 2050 to pique student interest and to help them to begin problem solving for the future of our world’s food needs. These are the kinds of 21st century skills that students need to learn to develop.

This is the first of three reflections by Coconino County teachers who participated in the 2017 Summer Agricultural Institute, a program for grade-school educators throughout Arizona to help them better integrate agricultural topics in their classrooms and schools. Diablo Trust raised money for the program in April, and will distribute those funds to the program this winter, including reimbursing the three teachers from Coconino County (where Diablo Trust and its ranches are located) for their application fees.