“It was that data that I could incorporate into my classroom lessons,” Parr said. “I wanted to have real true life data that the students could use to complete lab work and learn how to make graphs and read charts and tables.”
Once students read and learned all the cows’ names they then wanted to meet the animals, she said. Parr said that is when she began planning trips to her parents’ organic farm in Hartwick.
Parr said her mother and father, Patti and Ciff Brunner, have always been supportive of her ideas.
“I wanted the students to have an introduction to agriculture and ecology and reinforce the knowledge of cycles in nature,” Parr continued.
Each year, Parr’s curriculum changes somewhat. She said it all depends on what resources are made available and with whom she is able to collaborate.
“Collaborating with other teachers is a really important part of making a large program work,” she said.
The teacher said she has had farmers come to the school in the past so that students can interview them. This year, Parr said she is taking a different approach. One of the farmers suggested that students begin growing their own food, according to Parr. She said she is taking his advice and when the spring growing season arrives students will visit the Farmers’ Museum to help plant a Three Sisters Garden.
“There will be a theme that ties their experiences together. They are going to learn how food has shaped our culture and history,” she said.
She said her students will also participate in the local Growing Community program for the first time this year.
“I met with sixth-graders before they came to my classroom and told them if they planted things in a garden and shared the food and took pictures of that process along the way they could get extra credit when they got to my class,” Parr said.
Some of the students took on the challenge, and photos are posted on the walls in the halls outside Parr’s classroom.
Parr attended her first conference as agriculture teacher of the year in January. She said it gave her a chance to network with people and talk about the programs she has in her classroom.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to see agriculture on a much bigger scale,” Parr said.