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Keystone ag. instructor wins statewide award

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Photo: Verplanck-Smith

A Keystone Heights High School teacher was recognized for leading her students to teach agriculture fundamentals to elementary school students.

Erin Verplanck-Smith was one of four winners of the 2014 Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award.
According to the award’s sponsor, Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Verplanck-Smith tied for the middle school-l evel prize for her efforts in connecting her students with elementary school pupils.

“These younger students visit an agricultural land laboratory and learn about local commodities by visiting different stations manned by Smith’s students,” said the FAITC, in a press release. “In addition, Smith’s students travel to local elementary schools and help the younger students plant school gardens.”

KHHS Principal Susan Sailor pointed out that in addition to educating primary school students about agriculture, Verplanck-Smith’s program also helped the older students.

“This program provides an opportunity for the high school students to develop leadership and communication skills and for the elementary students to expand their knowledge of the agriculture industry,” Sailor wrote in an email.

The high school-level winner won the overall Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award.

Gustavo Junco, an advanced placement chemistry teacher at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines, led his students to grow sunflowers in a school garden, and then convert oil from the sunflower seeds into biodiesel to fuel go-karts the students built.

The elementary-level winner, Katrina Madok, uses hands-on experiments in which students at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West germinate seeds from fruits and vegetables they eat in the school’s cafeteria. The students then grow more produce from the seeds in a mini hydroponics station.

In addition to Verplanck-Smith, FAITC also recognized middle school-level instructor Katie Schlottterbeck, a teacher at St. Michael’s Lutheran in Ft. Myers.

Schlotterbeck shows her students how to grow fruits and vegetables in the school garden using different growing techniques. She also invites a local mosquito control entomologist into her classroom to teach students about mosquito control methods.

All four winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to the Agriculture in the Classroom national conference in Hershey , Pa.

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