KFAC presents Teacher of the Year award
By Doug Rich
Angela Black, Newton, Kan., received the 2013 Janet Sims Teacher of the Year Award from the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom at a ceremony in Topeka, Kan., on March 12. High Plains Journal sponsors the award.
Black is a kindergarten teacher at the Walton Rural Life Center, an agricultural charter school in Walton, Kan.
"We spend our entire year trying to integrate agriculture into all of our curriculum," Black said.
Black said Walton Rural Life Center became a charter school focusing on agriculture six years ago. They started the process to become a charter school because of the rural population in their area and their enrollment was dropping. The teachers, parents and community decided to take education in a different direction with a project-based, hands-on learning process. In six years enrollment at the school has doubled.
"It was a lot of work to become a project-based ag school," Black said. "There is not curriculum that you can purchase. We had to create it ourselves."
The school has a greenhouse, garden, and a barn full of animals. They have cows, pigs, sheep and chickens for the kids to use in their projects. Right now one of the projects they are working on is to incubate chicks. Black said later on when those chicks are grown another class will collect the eggs and another class will sell the eggs.
Black said they do a crop of the month and her class is doing a Flat Stanley project that helps them learn about agriculture all over the world. There is also a Cloverbud club at the school that meets twice a week. Cloverbuds are kids too young for regular 4-H.
Every spring Black said they do an ag fair that showcases each class and they projects they have been working on throughout the year. Their families, community members and elected representatives from the area are invited to attend and see what the school is doing.
"We encourage parent involvement specially during the summer when we have the garden and greenhouse still need to be tended," Black said. "Things need to be taken care of even when school is not in session."
Making an agricultural charter school like Walton Rural Life Center work requires a great deal of dedication from teachers like Angela Black and her colleagues. Just like on any farm, the crops and livestock require attention and care even on weekends and summer vacations.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.