In Atwater High School in California, agriculture students are asking questions. They follow up these questions with hypotheses, experiments, data collection and conclusions. These students are learning the scientific method in Elizabeth Knapp’s agriculture courses. Since combining agriculture and science courses five years ago, Atwater’s program has expanded from three sections of agricultural biology to 16 sections of agricultural biology, agricultural life science, agricultural earth science, and agricultural environmental science. Student enrollment soared from 344 to 824 individual students.
The program’s success is thanks to Knapp’s firm belief that agriculture courses should be hands-on with student-led discoveries based in the scientific method. By collaborating weekly with science teachers, Knapp has created an environment where students apply concepts they have learned in the classroom to their own agricultural activities. Because of her success, Knapp was selected as the 2011 National Agriscience Teacher of the Year.
The National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who have inspired and enlightened their students through engaging and interactive lessons in the science of agriculture.
Each year, one National Agriscience Teacher of the Year is selected from a group of four finalists at the National FFA Convention. Along with Knapp, this year’s finalists were Michelle Sutton, Sara Clark and Matt Eddy. Each finalist receives a plaque, a $500 award, and a $1,500 grant to purchase agriscience equipment for their school. They also receive round-trip airfare, registration and lodging for the National Association of Agricultural Educators convention.
As the National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award winner, Knapp receives a school plaque, an individual plaque, an additional $2,000 award and a $1,500 grant to purchase agriscience equipment for her school.