Colorado teacher integrates agriculture into his physical education classes
Andy Klatt won’t take the credit for the agricultural integration he’s brought to Grandview Elementary School in Windsor, Colo.
He’s grateful for the farmers he works with. He mentions the parent volunteers and fellow teachers for their help and input. And of course, the work he does wouldn’t be possible without the students reaping the benefits from it all.
But Klatt is a big part in making agricultural education at the Windsor school possible.
Klatt’s interest in integrating agriculture into his teaching at Grandview started with a class through the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture that teaches Colorado’s educators about the industry.
Klatt didn’t have much of a connection to the agriculture industry before the class. He grew up in Breckenridge, Colo., and worked with horses some, up there it’s more about “skiing and snow.”
He had a non-agricultural reason to take the class for continuing credit for his teaching license.
“Free credits,” he said with a laugh.
But, one course wasn’t enough.
“Once you take it, you’re hooked,” he said.
Klatt said he’s taken the class about six times since it’s always different every time. In his first class, the focus was Morgan County, Colo., and the livestock industry there, and the following year it was in Weld County, Colo., with the focus on crops and water.
One of the lessons he learned during the courses focused on steak. The class learned the difference between corn- and grass-fed cattle and how that affects the marbling of steak.
The lesson concluded with a steak cook-off, so it brought everything full circle.
“I thought, ‘What a cool concept because of everything I do with P.E., we know if I eat pancakes for breakfast you get wound up, but by 9 o’clock, you’re coming down and I feel like I haven’t eaten breakfast and then I add my syrup, simple sugar, so now I feel the glucose curve.”
Klatt said he was like “a Boy Scout coming home from camp” when he started to take the classes. He saw how integrated agriculture could be in what he did as a physical education teacher — particularly on the nutrition side — and that started his interest in applying agriculture to students’ lessons.
APPLYING IT TO STUDENTS
One of the ways Klatt integrates agriculture into lessons is through the school’s garden. There’s a lot of thought that goes into what is grown and how it’s used.
There are two sour cherry trees in the garden, and students will bake kirschenmichel, a pudding-type dessert to highlight the town’s Russian-German heritage.
But it’s not limited to local history. If there is a book a class is reading that involves an important food, the students are able to use the garden to pick ingredients needed to make whatever that food is.
Plus the students at Grandview help with planting, harvesting and maintaining the food, too. Klatt said the interest in the garden has grown in the six years he’s been at Grandview. The club had about a dozen students then and now it’s more than 120. The growing interest expanded to some homes with families growing their own gardens.
Klatt mostly contributes the success of the garden to the help he gets from area farmers who donate to the garden, as well as parents and his fellow faculty members.
Not once will he say he’s the reason for the garden club and that the success of the garden is due to his work.
He simply, “connects the dots.”
Last year he was recognized for his efforts at Grandview — the school also is part of Western Dairy Association’s Adopt a Farmer program and Fuel Up to Play 60.
He said it “was a huge honor,” but credited the classes he took for opening up these opportunities for him and what he’s done at Grandview.
Part of what he was able to integrate through the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant was to purchase GPS units for his class.
He uses them for a fitness unit, where the kids use the GPS devices to find wave points. He’s able to teach students that farmers can use similar GPS devices when working on crops.
BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
Klatt said he’s seen how the simple things he teaches his students will relate to them later in life.
It’s about laying down the foundation.
He said when his students do their mile-run course, once they’re done, they’ll go to the garden and pick cherry tomatoes or strawberries or whatever produce they have ready. There’s a hose there to wash them off.
Sometimes the kids will eat foods they don’t normally eat at home.
“It’s interesting how many parents aren’t able to give their kids that opportunity. They don’t eat it at home, but at school they do,” he said.
Klatt said there was one student who said she’s never tried a pickle, but she knew she didn’t like them.
He convinced her to try one, and now she has no hesitation eating them.
But sometimes kids don’t always interpret the lessons or tips the way Klatt meant them.
A common enemy of kids is broccoli, but Klatt told his students if it’s boiled in vegetable juice, it changes the taste and will make it better.
Well, one boy tried to tell his mom to boil his broccoli in Red Bull. Right color, wrong liquid.
But misinterpretations aside, Klatt integrates agriculture into all parts of the students’ education, including nutrition.
It’s about the foundation.
“I tell the kids … ‘If you’re able to get the knowledge now, (nutrition) is one of those areas of study, no matter how old you get, it stays the same.’ ” ❖
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