2007 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award
Ms. Dianne Swanson, California
Amidst a population of 500,000 people, in one of the most diverse counties in the United States, the award-winning Los Cerritos Urban Farmyard is an oasis of agricultural learning. Second grade teacher Dianne Swanson not only established the Urban Farmyard, she has also served as a positive advocate for agricultural teaching opportunities.
While receiving a significant portion of their education in “the farmyard,” her students do not get the typical "big city” educational experience. In a 60' x 80' area, their farmyard includes 22 raised beds for vegetables, flowers, herbs, California native plants, and a composting area. Additional components of the Urban Farmyard include outdoor classroom seating, a tool barn, and a coop housing hens, rabbits, ducks, a rooster, and a guinea fowl.
Through the “farmyard” experience, Swanson hopes to enhance environmental stewardship and instill a sense of pride in her students. These goals are achieved by providing enriching agricultural experiences that go far beyond regular classroom instruction for the 450 students at Los Cerritos School.
The garden is linked to a variety of state content standards and is a stage for questioning, experimentation, and problem solving. The benefits of agricultural literacy for Los Cerritos students are many, including improved nutrition, increased student achievement, valuable new experiences for urban students, as well as cultural and community bridge-building.
“Our garden and the larger picture of agriculture are important in my classroom, school and in the community,” said Dianne. “I use it as a springboard to teach others that agriculture is truly the basis for our society.”