Congratulations to our 2013 NYAITC Teacher of the Year, Amy Parr!
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:
- Visiting a dairy farm to study how a farm operates.
- Analyzing data from Mrs. Parr's family's farm, graphing the data and making predictions.
- Exploring an aquatic ecosystem, identifying aquatic insects to help determine water quality and the potential impacts from surrounding land uses.
- Plotting an acre.
- Determining how many acres are needed to support each student.
- Constructing a food web using lists of living things recorded during fieldwork and crafting the food web to include crops for human consumption.
- Researching a food item.
- Trying to trace a food item back to its source and the farmer who grew it.
- Celebrating local food with a food tasting.
- Interviewing an agricultural expert and then presenting what was learned.
- Learning how to write appropriate interview questions and thank you notes.
- Visiting a farm or farmers' market outside of class for class credit.
- Drawing aquatic insects and farm animals and then making revisions to create a high quality finished product.
- Imagining our part in a global ecosystem.
- Exploring, through art and the study of biomes, other cultures that our food choices impact.
- Describing the impact of our food choices on our health and the health of our planet.
- Comparing the digestive system of a cow with that of a human.
- Student participation in local food growing efforts
- Helping to plant a Three Sisters Garden at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown.
- Germinating pumpkin seeds in class for students to take home and grow.
- Fundraising through Equal Exchange to introduce the concept of fair trade.
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.