Califonia Bountiful

Teacher Feature

Carla Peterson

4-8th Grade Teacher
Pacific Christian Academy, Graton
Sonoma 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 was working on curriculum called Food for Thought (Sonoma County edition) and a flyer for the Ag in the Classroom Conference to be held in Rohnert Park was distributed. I desperately wanted to go and was able to attend the Saturday session—that was 18 or 19 years ago.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I just completed my 21st year as a teacher—all at Pacific Christian Academy! I never "planned" to be a teacher, but I had great teachers in elementary and high school. I also had an awesome agriculture teacher, FFA advisor my senior year in high school and 4-H leaders who were great role models and examples.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My favorite AITC activity is the annual conferences—I have attended at least 15. There is so much to see, do, and learn! Plus, meeting up with AITC friends is always awesome. I enjoy sharing ideas and teaching experiences. I also use the website regularly for resources (e.g., What's Growin' On?, Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets, and lesson plans). What a great tool for educators and students. My other favorite activity is the student writing contest "Imagine this…"—my students write great stories!

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
I am very appreciative of agriculture—in California, we have a nutritional, high-quality, safe food supply. I teach students that food, flower and fiber production is not "luck," but rather hard work with true applied science.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
All the time! I keep learning new things that I share with my students. Integrating agriculture into science, history and language arts is fun!

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
Mr. Harold Johnson, El Molino High School in Forestville, Calif. was my agriculture teacher when I was a senior in high school. He was an enthusiastic and compassionate teacher who found the good in each student. He taught knowledge and skills while providing encouragement so each student could be successful.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
It occurs every time when a student says, "Remember when..." and ends with Ag Days, fair, agriculture projects, or class garden. Sometimes it amazes me what the students remember and what they found interesting and important.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
We have had several gardening projects during the last month in school—my students planted our container/raised beds with Thai eggplant, corn, squash, peppers, beans and our wheelbarrow garden with tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, cucumbers, and edible flowers (calendulas and nasturtium). We made garden books that included leaf rubbings and illustrations, made dried leaf collections, and dried and planted eggplant seeds. Earlier in the year we made scarecrows for our garden. Each month we had "taste of the month" or "cooking project of the month." We have learned about apples and made "edible art" and we even cooked "green eggs and ham" with our Kindergarten Buddies for Dr. Seuss Day.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
It's easy—just do it and have fun! You can start off slow and introduce a "food of the month," or an "activity of the month"—such as an apple activity (perhaps dissect apples, do an apple taste test, talk about grafting and propagation techniques) in September for Johnny Appleseed Day. Read agriculture-related stories and write poems for ELA activities. Most important: Don't feel intimidated—learn as your students do and have fun!

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
A society will only be as strong and healthy as its agricultural roots. Students are the future consumers and voters and need to be informed enough to make sound decisions.

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