2011 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award
Mr. Mark Leachman
Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, Colorado
For 34 years, Mark Leachman, teacher at Bear Creek High School, has taught Senior Field Studies. This interdisciplinary course takes suburban Denver-area high school students out to Colorado farms and ranches to live and work for 7-10 days. Working in cooperation with host families, these students experience farm or ranch life and learn firsthand about production agriculture.
More than 1,000 students have taken the course and come away with a whole new appreciation and understanding of agriculture and its importance to society. Integrating science, history, civics and economic standards with agriculture standards, this course develops student skills in researching, analyzing, writing, inquiring and speaking to groups.
Mark and his students raise money for all expenses related to the program. The semester-long program allows students to learn about rural, urban and wilderness communities first-hand. Classroom learning is part of the program, but the experiential learning develops their knowledge to a new level.
"Students do not enroll in the program specifically for the rural experience, but it often becomes their favorite part. Not only is their knowledge of agriculture increased exponentially, but the relationships they build while in the homes of farmers and ranchers and in the agriculture community last for years to come."