While Cooperstown Central School's 7th graders may not have all grown up on farms, they have learned to appreciate the connections between the farm and their everyday lives. Amy Parr's life science students learn the scientific concepts of local and global ecology and how to connect them with art through the lens of the Agricultural Expedition, making the impact of Parr's integration of agriculture into her curriculum clear. From plotting acres on a nearby dairy farm as a math lesson to identifying and drawing aquatic insects as part of life science and art lessons, Parr routinely incorporates real world concepts about the impact of agriculture on our global ecology and health into learning opportunities for her students. She has developed the Agricultural Expedition curriculum, guiding her student's learning with the question "How do our food choices impact our health and the health of our planet?" Through the integration of science and art, Parr's students gain a better understanding of the ecosystems around them and farmers who support them.
Parr has demonstrated commitment to exploring not only agricultural topics with her students, but also the connections that the visual arts create between her students and the world they live in. She provides opportunities for her students to gain agricultural experience on her parents' nearby farm, experience they may not gain elsewhere. After visiting the farm, her students complete assignments such as interviewing agricultural experts, researching food items, and exploring how agricultural choices impact global cultures through studying biomes and art, then creating food webs as their art projects.
"I wanted them to have an introduction to agriculture and ecology and reinforce the knowledge of cycles in nature," Parr said when asked about her students' trip to her parents' dairy farm. "I wanted the students to look at the farm as a system."
Parr is continually developing the Agricultural Expedition curriculum, creating a unique learning experience for her students, allowing them to explore the many aspects of the agricultural world around them. From the ecosystems surrounding them, locally and globally, to the food production systems in use, students learn to understand and appreciate the farmers who grow their food, both at home and abroad.
During the Agricultural Expeditions, students have broached a variety of activities that include the following:
Parr will be formally recognized as the 2013 New York Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year at the New York Farm Bureau's Spring Conference in Albany. She will attend the Ag Society Forum in Syracuse this January and the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Minneapolis, MN in June where she will compete to become a nationally recognized Teacher of the Year.