Unwinding Strands of History

Posted: July 20, 2023

Educators examine area agriculture during the 23rd Summer Ag Institute

“Beyond Barbed Wire: Area Agriculture Past & Present” was the theme of the 2023 Summer Ag Institute (SAI), which was held June 12-15.

The four-day professional development opportunity for teachers involved farm & agribusiness tours, presentations, hands-on workshops, and a panel discussion.

Participants could earn either 30 professional development hours from the DeKalb Regional Office of Education or two hours of graduate credit from University of St. Francis.

Eleven area educators participated in this year’s SAI: (top row, from left) Dana Mallar, Southeast Elementary; Candice Foss, Brooks Elementary; Jill Henson, Southeast Elementary; (bottom row, from left) Kim Sparrow, Hiawatha Elementary; Randy Zeitler, Sycamore High School; Megan Forti, Littlejohn Elementary; Dawn Berry, North Grove Elementary; Joy Walter, North Grove Elementary; Jon Walter, Southeast Elementary; Kathleen Sweet, Hiawatha High School; and Kathryn Thuestad, Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Kathryn Thuestad and Dawn Berry use modeling clay to create topographical maps of Illinois as they learn how the shape of the land shapes agriculture in our state.
Chris Paulson gives a presentation on the use of nitrogen-producing microbial seed coatings as a replacement for synthetic fertilizer during the tour of Jones Family Farm.
Tracy Jones explains the intricacies of his high-speed planter. While touring his farm, teachers explored beef production, machinery, the use of solar energy, and grain storage.
Becky Pritchard (far left) leads teachers on a tour of the farm she operates with her husband, Greg, and sons Mark and Scott.
Scott Pritchard proudly shows visiting teachers his show heifer. He and his brother Mark explained the work involved in caring for show cattle during the group’s visit to the Pritchard Farm.
Kindergarten teacher Jill Henson listens attentively as Bob Pritchard shares details of his family history that are highlighted at the Hinckley Historical Society Museum.
DeKalb teachers Candice Foss and Megan Forti study an exhibit at the Hinckley Historical Society’s Museum.
DeKalb County History Center Executive Director Michelle Donahoe shows teachers how the globally-recognized “Winged Ear” logo was used in early advertising. The logo is one of the items featured in the exhibit “The History of DeKalb County in 100 Objects.”
Illinois Pork Producers intern Lydia Oker describes the ins and outs of pork production. Teachers learned which parts of the pig provide various food and non-food products and how to obtain pork education resources during Oker’s presentation.
Sycamore teacher and president of the North Grove School Association Jennifer Parsons gives SAI participants a taste of what school was like in the days of one-room schoolhouses. The old North Grove School was founded in 1878 by Swedish farmers who settled in the area north of Sycamore.
DeKalb teacher Dawn Berry stands to present her “seatwork” during a visit to the North Grove one-room schoolhouse.
SAI participants enjoy a game of “Rachel & Jacob,” in which a blindfolded student – “Jacob” – tries to catch “Rachel.” Historical outdoor games were one of the activities teachers experienced during their visit to the North Grove one-room school.
Kim Sparrow and Kathleen Sweet piece together a soil texture triangle. The activity was one of many soil-focused lessons introduced during Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom’s three-hour SAI workshop.
Sycamore farmer Steve Ward explains the features each of his hog barns includes to ensure animal health and safety. While visiting Old Elm Farm, participants also learned how weaned piglets are raised to market weight.
Suter Company President Tim Suter shares highlights of his company’s history as a prelude to the facility tour. Participants enjoyed learning about Suter’s three-generation presence in Sycamore and the employee-owned company’s ongoing commitment to the community.
Panelists Berkeley Boehne, Jamie Martz, and Jim Walter respond to questions from the teachers during a panel discussion on the last day of SAI.
Nine teachers received the Jeff Hartmann Memorial SAI Scholarship this year. Sari Hartmann presented scholarship checks on the final day of class. Shown are (left to right) Kim Sparrow, Dana Mallar, Megan Forti, Candice Foss, Sari Hartmann, Kathleen Sweet, Joy Walter, Jon Walter, and Dawn Berry. Educators who teach or live in DeKalb County are eligible for this scholarship.

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