Dora Fuqua, Canton
In Dora Fuqua's 6th grade classroom in Canton, a group of students is intently examining a display of vegetables set out on a table—broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage—and writing notes on sheets of paper. On the board in front of the classroom is a list of words - Root, Stem, Flower Leaf.
While the last group finishes its examination, Mrs. Fuqua offers a clue as to what the vegetables have in common. "This month we are studying brassica vegetables," she explains. She directs groups to different parts of the room and instructs them to read a passage she has provided about brassica vegetables. The passage is from the OAITC lesson "Bring on the Brassica Vegetables." Each group is instructed to highlight a different word as they read the passage: "vegetable," "garden," "green," "cool or cold," "plant or planted," "grow/grown or grew."
The class is interrupted by a vision screening, but when they return they continue with the planned reading activity. As Mrs. Fuqua reads the passage out loud, the groups are instructed to react in certain funny ways when they hear the word they have highlighted.
Mrs. Fuqua explains that she introduces a different vegetable at the beginning of each month, making use of Harvest of the Month posters provided by OAITC. Her favorite OAITC lessons are the plant lessons like the one she was doing today. Although she doesn't officially teach science, science sometimes creeps into her teaching of English Language Arts, reading, math and social studies, especially when she is using lessons about agriculture. "My students like anything involving food. And I like to include food in my teaching because my kids can use the extra nutrition," she said.
Mrs. Fuqua said she would use this same reading passage later in the week to teach geography. Students will be asked to research the origins of each of the vegetables, using their Chrome books. Every student in her class is assigned a Chrome book, although they are not allowed to take them home at this grade level.
This will be a mini research project, but her students are required to do more extensive research projects during the school year when they prepare to participate in National History Day. Canton students compete most years in the event. The school has had winners every year since 2003, she said. Mrs. Fuqua has made the trip herself several times and loves getting her students out to see other parts of the country.
She grew up near Canton. Her dad worked briefly for local farmers, helping with wheat, barley, rye, some oats and cattle. She remembers riding horses to help round up cattle. "And my mom always had a garden," she recalls.
She and her husband live on 40 acres now and have had goats in the past.
Probably about one-third of her students have agricultural experience. Some show animals. Some have quite a bit of agricultural experience. "I have one who would much rather be farming than anything else," she laughed. His expertise is apparent when she does OAITC activities.
She is grateful for all the support they get from the agriculture community. "We get lots of support from Wheeler Brothers," a grain company in western Oklahoma.
The school has a garden that gets plenty of support. "The community loves the garden," she said. The local farm store, Canton Farm Supply, donates seed every year and provided water hoses. "They like it that we are teaching kids where their food comes from," she said.
The garden had to be moved from its former location this year, "so we decided to use tractor tires to make our new planting beds," she said. “We put up a notice on Facebook and ended up with nine donated tractor tires!”
The county provided a semi load of dirt, "much more than we needed," she said. They used the county dirt in the bottoms of the tires and topped them off with higher quality donated potting soil.
Mrs. Fuqua first learned about OAITC through the local reading council, when former Professional Development Coordinator Dana Bessenger spoke to group. After that she went on a summer OAITC tour in the Panhandle area and was encouraged to do more. Now she does one OAITC lesson about every two weeks, she said.
OAITC Teacher in Action: Pumpkins, Squash and Other Cucurbits, with Dora Fuqua, Canton (video)
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma
Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture,
Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.