Califonia Bountiful

Dale Mizuno

Retired 3rd Grade Educator
Central Elementary School and George Kelly Elementary School, Tracy, CA
San Joaquin County

This interview was originally published on CFAITC's blog, "The Fencepost."

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned about Ag in the Classroom when I received a copy of "What's Growin' On?" in The Modesto Bee newspaper. I was teaching third grade and had my class do some of the activities and they loved it!

After I retired, I was invited to participate in creating the articles and activities for the asparagus issue. My husband, Gordon, is an asparagus grower so my knowledge about asparagus was helpful for this issue. The meetings were held in Stockton that summer/fall and I was happy to help in any way I could. I have been participating with CFAITC ever since and enjoy it very much!

How long have you taught students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I spent my professional career teaching students for 32 years. I taught the first three years in Oakland, and the rest in Tracy. I became an educator because I love to be involved with young minds full of excitement. It is fun to see the "light bulb" go off when something clicks for the first time. I had a seventh grade PE/health teacher that inspired me to become a teacher. The funny thing is, she taught me how to knit during her lunch periods because I showed an interest in it. She would knit while we took a health test. When I looked back at these moments, I thought to myself, "I would like to be like that someday." While I was teaching third grade, in addition to my regular curriculum of the three R's, I added cooking and sewing. They cooked during math time and sewed with a sewing machine (with supervision) during history, art, or where we could fit it in.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My favorite program is putting together the "What's Growin' On?" newspaper at the writing team meeting. There are a variety of activities for California students to use and it addresses different topics each year. I would like to see more teachers throughout California using this supplement to incorporate agriculture into their classroom.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you and how did that affect the way you educated students?
Children need to eat healthy foods! Many children are not aware of the variety of foods out there or what they look like. I included nutritious foods/snacks when students prepared something to eat each week. The rule was, "You need to at least taste the food, even though you didn't want to eat it." And it worked. The students' parents would tell me that their child was eating "so and so" now, but before they didn't.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
I had several students compete in the San Joaquin County "Storytelling On the Delta" contest. They brought back trophies some years and we were asked to do a school board presentation. One of the girls was telling her story and dropped something out of her pocket but didn't skip a beat with the telling of her story and kept on going as if nothing happened. When it happened I died, but then she carried on as if nothing had happened. It couldn't have been any better. I was very proud of her! It was more than a golden teaching moment; it was very special.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
My son, Chance, and I planted his first garden when he was seven. He grew corn, cantaloupe, banana squash, beets, and beans. He kept a log by measuring and watering each day. When it was time to harvest, he was so proud of his bumper crops of banana squash and cantaloupes. He had fun giving away what he grew.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
If a teacher wants to grow a garden of vegetables or fresh flowers, put it in a secure area where it won't get vandalized or damaged. A locked area with lots of sunshine would be ideal. If a teacher prepares any recipes of items brought in, make sure there is a sink to wash the food properly. Be prepared with all the items/tools needed. Have plenty of agriculture-related books available.

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