The Shape of Agriculture

Posted: July 13, 2018

Teachers connect ag to social lessons

Twenty area teachers started their summer break back in the classroom—the Center for Agriculture auditorium, that is—as they participated in Farm Bureau’s 19th Summer Ag Institute (SAI).

The theme for this year’s course, “Teaching Social Studies through Agriculture,” was designed to help teachers explore ways to incorporate ag-related content while addressing the new Illinois Social Science Standards.

SAI incorporates a blend of classroom-style learning with tours of farms and other ag-related sites. Some of the experiences from this year’s Institute are featured.


Learning through inquiry

Judy Stafstrom (standing) conducts a Socratic Seminar using the book “John Deere, That’s Who.” Judy and Melissa Irick from the DeKalb Regional Office of Education teamed up to help teachers tie agriculture to new Illinois Social Science Standards. Teachers shown include (from left) Susan Bivens, Cortland Elementary; Laurie Jacobson and Jennifer McCormick, both from West Elementary, Sycamore; Pam Nelson, Sycamore Middle School; and Bridget Klein, West Elementary.



Blowin’ in the wind

Frank Engel explains windmill history and the evolution of his passion for harnessing wind. Teachers visited his farm to see and learn about his collection of restored windmills. Later, the group visited the Lee/DeKalb Wind Energy Center to explore modern wind energy. Cortland Elementary teacher Susan Bivens donned a hard hat to get a look inside the tower.


100 years of green tractors

Modern technology and history converge as SAI participants learn about machinery during a tour of DeKalb Implement. “If a combine breaks down, we may know it before the farmer does, and can have the right parts on the truck when he calls,” explained Cohen Hill, consultant with DeKalb Implement. It was fitting visiting a John Deere dealership in celebration of 100 years of John Deere tractors.



The shape of the land shapes agriculture

Jennifer Brock, 4th grade teacher from Malta Elementary, consults a topography map as she creates a three-dimensional diagram of Illinois. Later, Genoa area farmer Randy Nelson explained how the topography of the land he farms shapes his farming practices.


Historic homestead with unique legacy

During a tour stop to the historic Miller homestead, Randy Nelson tells the story of how Isaac Ellwood met and married Harriet Miller while traveling through DeKalb County. Later, Ellwood would also meet Joseph Glidden and the barbed wire story begins. The Nelson family has farmed Ellwood land since 1912.


Corn, cows, and conversations

The grain handling system towers over the teachers at Jones Family Farm near Kirkland. While at the farm, teachers learned from farmer Tracy Jones about feedlot beef production, machinery, and grain handling. Farm employee Chris Paulsen also demonstrated how he uses drones as a crop monitoring tool. At the end of the visit, Tracy donned his county board member “hat” to talk about zoning challenges related to wind energy.


Solidifying learning through reflection

The last day of SAI is an opportunity to reflect and regroup. Sycamore teachers Bridget Klein, West Elementary, and Allyson Holder, North Grove Elementary, list course experiences and learnings during a group reflection exercise.


Value-added agriculture at the orchard

Jenna Spychal of Jonamac Orchard treats SAI teachers to a tasting of some of the newer products offered at the orchard: wine and hard cider. Participants investigated the year-round cycle of apple production and the challenges of staying profitable with such a weather-sensitive crop.


Wonders of windmills

Teachers appreciate the variety of windmills at the Engel Farm near Hampshire and pose for a group photo with the Engels.