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Clarke Elementary teacher awarded for integrating Agriculture

Clarke third grade teacher Tara Norman is the recipient of the 2019 Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award. She was presented the award Dec. 12 at The Iowa Farm Bureau board of directors meeting in Des Moines.

The process to receive this award started out with Clarke’s secondary Ag instructor and FFA Advisor Brandi Boyd attempting to secretly submit Norman’s name in order to surprise her if she won. The attempt didn’t stay a secret for long as the six page application process needed information that only Norman could give. Boyd told Norman about the application and a flattered Norman finished filling out all the paperwork and submitted her application in November.

Norman has been integrating agriculture into her third grade classroom and throughout Clarke Elementary with the Agriculture Club since she began teaching three years ago.

“When I was choosing what I wanted to do with my life...I wanted to do something with agriculture and I also really enjoyed kids and education,” said Norman.

Norman is a Clarke graduate and grew up involved in agriculture and has stayed close with Boyd from her time in Big Chief FFA, through college and they continue to work together to support the Elementary Ag Club.

“I had the chance to reach kids of several diverse backgrounds, very diverse understandings of agriculture with all of them and I could teach them a lot so agriculture really fits nicely into every single subject that I teach; reading, writing, science, math, social studies,” said Norman.

Norman has found that while teaching core reading skills, by simply reading about agriculture she could inform the students on two subject at once. That also easily transitions into a science lesson when students begin asking questions about the content of the book.

“I do everything I can to teach littles the true facts about agriculture and alleviate some of the misconceptions,” said Norman.

Norman has found it best to integrate agriculture right from the first week of school and is now known as the “classroom that hatches the chicks” by students throughout the school.

Norman’s class does hatch chicks each year, they also candle eggs for science. To work on writing the students keep a journal about the chick development. She has also incorporated technology by live streaming putting the eggs in the incubator, candling the eggs, and the chicks hatching. They also live stream the chicks throughout their first two weeks while they are still living in the classroom.

“It’s amazing, I just get so giddy about it. I just love this unit,” said Norman.

Agriculture is not just in Norman’s third grade classroom, it is also part of the third through sixth grade leadership clubs where Norman leads the Ag Club the second Wednesday of every month.

The Ag Club students have learned about animal identification, tagging, tattooing and branding. They also learn about soil layers, breeds of animals and characteristics. The Iowa State Extension Office even came in with a virtual reality mask so students could see what it’s like to be in a combine.

This years big theme for Ag Club has been safe animal handling facilities and the students have learned about Temple Grandin, a spokesperson for both autism and animal behavior. The students are building models of safe animal handling facilities in groups.

“We are going to do an Agriculture Family Night December 17, Tuesday at 5:30,” said Norman.

All this work has paid off and now that Norman is the Iowa Teaching about Agriculture Award recipient she has been automatically put in the running for the national award at the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference. She will be going to the conference in Utah in June where they will award teachers from all across the country.

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