Dusti McCartney is in her 8th year teaching at Willard Fifth and Sixth Grade Center, in Ada. For her first seven years she taught just ELA classes, but because she was using OAITC activities in so many of her classes, the administration asked her to teach one science class.
"Since science is not a tested subject, I have more flexibility to teach diferent things," she said. Now she teaches five ELA classes and one science class. Although she is now using OAITC to teach science, she has no trouble finding ways to use it in her ELA classes.
"I love the lessons as a reading resource," she said. "And it’s nonfiction, so that’s good."
McCartney’s grandfather was a hobby farmer, "which meant he pretty much grew whatever he wanted —watermelon one year, something else the next" she said. She enjoyed helping him, no matter what he was growing at the time and liked harvesting the best.
Only one of McCartney's students has a farming background. "My kids see cattle in fields alongside the road, but that’s all the experience they have with agriculture," she said.
McCartney first learned about OAITC when she went on a tour with her mother while she was still a college student. She has used OAITC in her teaching ever since and has been on three summer tours. The latest one was interesting, she said, because she took along a fellow teacher who had never been on an OAITC tour before.
"It was like having a kid with me," she laughed," especially when we got to the part where one of the cattle producers was castrating a calf."
Her companion did not love that part of the tour but was excited to be surrounded by baby calves.
One of McCartney's most successful ways to use the OAITC curriculum is with food.
“My kids are hungry,” she said. "Literally hungry, so in order to bring in food without just providing snacks every day, I teach them about the different foods that I bring." (And, yes, she pays for the food out of her own pocket.) "For example if I bring in strawberries I can use the information in the OAITC lesson 'Oklahoma’s Berry Best' to introduce berry production in the state."
She has received OAITC/Oklahoma Pork Council grants and has taught workshops at the state conference. This year she taught a workshop at the national AITC conference in Kansas City.
McCartney is hard pressed to name a favorite OAITC activity but at the time of the interview was excited about “The Case of the Missing Pumpkin.” She had a pumpkin rotting in an aquarium for students to observe and it presented many teachable moments, including a lesson on mold when mold started growing on the pumpkin. "When white stuff started appearing on the pumpkin, they said it was snowing," she laughed. "They checked the pumpkin every day for changes."
"OAITC presents opportunities for students who are not successful in other areas," McCartney said. One such student created a buzz in the classroom with a catapult he built for shooting a small candy pumpkin during the pumpkin unit.
"His was the best, and it gave him some extra prestige among his classmates. Now everyone is asking him for help," she said.
"He is always mad when he misses school on a day we are doing OAITC activities," she said.