2006 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award
Ms. Cyanne Williams, Florida
The wagon-load of fourth graders is excited by the crack of the rawhide whip and the cur dogs circling the herd of cattle. Archer Community School students spend a year preparing for this day – an authentic Florida cattle drive and trail dinner. My colleague and I developed this project because we recognized only one family with children at our school earns its living from production agriculture. To meet this need and fulfill state standards, our project, “Florida: Our Land, Our Food and Our People,” was born. The year begins with a plant science study, then we study ecosystems and the interdependence of the populations found in them.
Students read The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo, featuring one of Florida's fragile ecosystems and human impact on it, Cows or Condos?, which stimulates land use discussions, and Florida historical fiction. Students experience self-sufficient pioneer life by planting and tending a garden, making soap, strawberry jam, butter and beef jerky, and visiting a pioneer village. Students visit and orange grove to learn about this commodity. They make a rag rug from their cast off clothing, and learn about cotton production and processing in Sea to Shining Sea and Step by Step. Reading A Land Remembered, using other lessons, and the cattle drive provides children a first-hand look at Florida's beef industry. My students learn that humans depend on the land, are responsible for protecting it and are better equipped to plan for its future use with the burgeoning population growth being experienced by our state, country and world.