Students get lesson in farming
School is back in full swing, and so is volleyball season, and I will not lie, it has been busy.
When I received my teaching schedule this year, I was incredibly worried. I did not have my preparation period until the last period of the school day. This had happened my first year of teaching, and it had been a rough year. I had felt like I was constantly behind, constantly running late, constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown not having a break, except a short lunch, during the day. My only bright spot was that occasionally I would get to cover our outdoor skills class.
I saw that my prep was seventh period, the last period of the day. It was not until the first week that I realized that my prep once again corresponded with the outdoor appreciation class.
Let me explain a bit about our outdoor appreciation class. It is taught by our woodshop teacher, Terry Muresan, and it is a seniors-only class.
In the class, students learn boating safety, archery, fishing, earn their firearms certification, learn about our National Parks, creek assessments and a variety of other activities and subjects not taught as part of the traditional school curriculum. It is a class that is considered sacred at Maplewood, and most students cannot wait until their senior year to be able to join outdoor class.
This class is only held seventh period because Mr. Muresan and the students often leave to go out into the field to learn through hands-on experiences.
My first year, Mr. Muresan had to miss a day and had asked me to take the students fishing at Mosquito Lake. I had loved every minute of watching some of the kids show off their nontraditional skills. Some were expert fishermen, while others left much to be desired.
However, for me, it had been an awesome experience to see my kids outside of the traditional classroom or on the sports field. I was astounded by what kids had shown brightest that warm spring day on the lake.
Last week, Mr. Muresan asked me if he could use our cornfields to do a yield assessment. I, of course, asked Grandma and received permission. This was a fairly regular occurrence since my grandparents’ farm is a little more than a half-mile from the school. Last year, they had conducted a field assessment on our soybeans.
Mr. Muresan asked me if I wanted to go on the field assessment, and on a whim I decided to tag along.
When we got to the field, I was not sure what I expected. Some of the students were farm kids who had grown up around corn, soybeans, bugs, dirt and all the other things farm related. Some were kids who had never stepped foot on a farm.
One of the first things we stumbled across was a giant praying mantis at least 6 inches long, and everyone took a moment to admire this amazing creature.
Mr. Muresan began to explain how to do a yield assessment, explaining how students needed to measure 17.5 feet and then count the number of stalks in that area. Once that was done, they needed to find an ear and peel it back, counting the number of kernels around the cob and then the number of rows on the cob. Watching our students disappear into the field, talking, laughing and learning made me so proud to be part of the agricultural community.
When the students were finished, they gathered back together, compared their finds and began the process of getting the average.
While it may have just been one moment in time and a skill that many will not use ever again, our students had an honest moment to connect to the world of agriculture, and I could not be more proud that we were able to provide that. We have become a country that is too disconnected from our food, from our roots, and we need to begin to fix that. While I know it is not feasible for everyone to live on a farm or even have a garden, I believe that schools can provide the link between agriculture and education that is missing.
We need more classes like Mr. Muresan’s outdoor appreciation class, and we need parents to realize that serious learning is actually happening in this class. While it may not be shown through grades or traditional assessments, there is honestly not a more relevant class offered to youth today.
English, mathematics, science and social studies are all important, but without an environment that is healthy and food to eat, nothing is relevant. I would love to see more schools bring back this class, and I urge educators and parents to think deeply about how they are tying agriculture into their children’s lives.
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University. She and her family have a farm in Mecca.