JuneFrances Anderson, a grade-school intervention literacy teacher for Denver Public Schools, received the Colorado Ag in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award on March 21, during the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture’s Celebrating Agriculture Dinner in Greeley.
Anderson, with 11 years of teaching in Denver Public Schools under her belt, took time recently to talk with The Fence Post about her own teaching efforts and agriculture education in general.
1. What are some of the unique things you’ve been doing in your classroom to have earned such recognition recently?
A. In my recent second-grade classroom, I created and integrated a farm unit into our current social studies program.
Our field trips were to the National Western Stock Show, urban farms in Stapleton, the Denver Botanic Gardens.
We also invited local farmers into our classroom. Cindy Johnston from Johnston Family Farms came to speak to the students before our field trips. She even brought in toy tractors that were partially sponsored for the students through John Deere Longs Peak.
Cindy taught the students three important things to remember: Always buy Colorado, thank a farmer and share your knowledge with others.
At the end of the unit, students wrote non-fiction stories about pieces of Colorado agriculture, such as Colorado peaches, corn, John Deere tractors, horses, cattle or other topics of their choosing.
2. Where does your own personal passion for agriculture stem from?
A. My personal passion for agriculture stems from when I was in junior high and high school. My mother registered us for the Douglas County 4-H program.
My sister showed horses, my brother showed pigs and participated in the rockets, and I participated in the sewing/fashion shows. Growing up in Sedalia and Castle Rock, Colo., I have always been around agriculture, but never involved in farming. While I was in high school, my mother’s boyfriend was the owner of Rosenquist Race Horses in Sedalia.
Through his living on that ranch, I learned how to care for horses, feed them, stack hay and various ranch chores. Being that it was a ranch, I didn’t really know at the time how much the cost of hay was — or really knew which farm the hay came from.
During my time in high school, there was not an FFA program at Douglas County High School. In college, I really wasn’t involved in any agriculture programs, as I went to Metropolitan State College of Denver and my main focus was to complete my teaching degree. All through my school years, my family always attended our local Douglas County Fair, entering into various events during our time in 4-H, and even out of 4-H.
We also visited the Stock Show in Denver every year as a family tradition.
It wasn’t until I began teaching in Denver Public Schools that I realized the students I was teaching didn’t have the knowledge or the resources to know where their food comes from, or even know the true history of the Denver National Western Stock Show.
When I was teaching kindergarten in 2001, my principal at the time brought it to my attention that the Stock Show offered free field trips to students. I immediately signed my class up — a little after the deadline, but Chris Uhing at the Colorado State Extension office got us in for free.
I then pulled off every single resource I could find, and was disappointed that at the time, there wasn’t a lot for kindergarten students. I then began collecting books to read to the students about farm animals, and did the best I could before our field trip.
I met my current boyfriend, Cody, in 2009, and really started to get involved in the farming life.
He is a head mechanic and John Deere Longs Peak, and also runs his own business of buying, selling and repairing tractors at our house.
Together, we also lease fields and cut/bale hay.
It wasn’t until 2011 that I came across the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and attended their summer institute. I was also a new member of the Colorado Front Range Young Farmers, and was excited to extend those resources to the classroom.
Once I got to the institute, I met Bette Blinde and was very intrigued by the Colorado Foundation for Ag and everything they do for classrooms through Growing Your Future and Live Well Colorado.
At the time, I had no idea about the Excellence in Teaching Ag in the Classroom Award, but was delighted to be a part of an article that was written about my second grade students through Live Well Colorado.
3. Why do you feel agriculture education is so important?
A. I feel agriculture education is so important because we happen to live in a state that produces many different products.
It is very important to the students that I teach, and others that we reach through Front Range Young Farmers, that they know and are able to share their knowledge of Colorado agriculture with others.
Eventually, I would like to share knowledge of agriculture in other states as well.
I am so thankful that Bette and the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture have sent me to Minneapolis, for the National Agriculture in the Classroom.
4. What would you like to see more of from school districts and teachers when it comes to agriculture education in the classrooms?
A. I would like to see school districts and teachers participating more in the free programs that Growing your Future and Live Well Colorado have to provide.
I believe that not all teachers in Colorado know of all the vast amounts of free knowledge that we have available to learn about our agriculture in Colorado.
I would also like to see teachers taking advantage of the scholarships available to attend the Summer Institute for Ag in the Classroom, and order the products from growingyourfuture.com.
I would like to be an advocate for the products that are available, and help teachers set up field trips, and find where the agriculture knowledge can be integrated into their current curriculums and matches with our new Common Core State Standards.
5. What have been the challenges for ag education, and what do you believe will be the biggest challenges going forward?
A. The challenges for ag education — at least for me — are finding the resources available, and using the resources to my best ability.
I also think it is challenging to pass on what I have learned and done in the past with new teachers.
I am currently working on ways to integrate and continue with the second-grade field trips that I began as I have recently stepped into a new position at my current school.
This new position is not a classroom position, but it allows me to be able to get others more involved than when I had my own classroom. ❖