2006 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award
Mr. Lawrence "Lance" Omeje, California
Lance Omege, one year into teaching at Turner Elementary in Fresno, applied for and received a School District Block Grant to rebuild the half-acre Turner Environmental Center. A diverse body of students, teachers, parents and community members came together to learn about and appreciate the valley's rich agricultural soils and to harvest its many rewards.
Examples of Omeje's garden supporting projects include a garden club, salsa making project, multicultural festival, and appreciation breakfasts. The Center has evolved into an outdoor “living laboratory” that has become a dynamic, year-round site where students, teachers and their parents observe, explore and use real-life situations to solve problems and apply skills. It has blossomed into several large garden plots, providing an outdoor recreation area, pond, cactus garden and greenhouse.
Nine years later, Omeje, a 4th-5th grade multiple subject teacher, involved more than 80 percent of the 970 Turner elementary students in gardening during the 2005 school year. Out of 46 staff members, 20 actively participated. The center helped to make learning accessible to all students regardless of their background, talents, or language proficiency.
"When students plan, plant, care for and analyze their gardens, science and learning take on meaning like never before," said Omeje.