Amber Round's husband thinks you should know she was a state poultry judging champion when she was in high school. "I grew up showing animals with 4-H and FFA," Round said.
"My dad had a fish farm, Morris Fish Farm, in Inola. He grew soybeans, hay, milo and cattle. I learned a lot about hard word from my parents," she said.
Round and her husband have 80 acres with cattle and some horses. Her daughter shows sheep.
Agriculture is central to her teaching. She has taught first grade at Lincoln Elementary in Pryor for the past two years. Before that she taught prekindergarten and kindergarten for five years at Chouteau, just down the road.
Although the town of Pryor is surrounded by farmland, not one of her students this year even lives in the country. All live in town, she said. Her students love Ag in the Classroom, though, because it is all hands on.
“I have zero behavior problems when I am doing these activities,” she said.
She has hatched chickens with her students every year, as one would expect from a state poultry judging champion. She has her own incubater, but some years she has to ask for egg donations from families who raise chickens. “One year I ended up with 40 donated eggs," she laughed.
"I always let the kids take the chicks home, with parents’ permission, of course," she said. That year, after the chicks had gone home with students, they were surprised to find that some of the hatched "chicks" were actually baby turkeys.
“I sent an email out to the parents who had taken the chicks home to let them know. One parent responded that they had noticed their little 'chick' was trying to gobble,” she laughed.
Round found the OAITC website during her first year of teaching and "dabbled" with the resources she found there up until this past summer when she attended the state OAITC conference.
“I had no idea I could do so much with agriculture,” she said. She particularly enjoyed a workshop on the Three Little Pigs taught by Keri Thompson of Moore and plans to use quite a few of those activities in the coming school year.
Her school is in between math programs as they transition to project-based learning in all the subjects. After she attended the state conference, Round went to her principal and proposed an all-Ag in the Classroom math program. He said go for it.
“The lessons provide great building blocks,” that she expands into week-long projects, she said. She doesn’t necessarily stick with lessons designated for lower grades, either. After one of her students developed a staph infection, she turned to the upper level lesson “How Germs Spread” to help students understand infections and encourage students to wash their hands.
In September her class did a unit on county fairs, building on the lesson “A Trip to the Animal Fair.” That unit ended with an actual trip to the Mayes County Fair. She recruited local 4-H members to share their knowledge with her students.
"One did a great presentation on goats and another did a presentation on rabbits," she said, showing students the different body parts.
"Students also learned what farm animals eat," she said. "They were able to see that farmers care very much about their animals. As a person in agriculture, I am aware of the need to fight disinformation about animal care," she said. "I think it’s so important for students to get factual information."
Because of the generosity of Google, which has a data center nearby, her school has technology she is able to use in her classroom for things like taking virtual field trips. Recently they took a virtual trip to a cotton field for a very successful two-week unit on cotton. OAITC's Audrey Harmon visited the classroom during that unit and videotaped Round's class in action.
Round is particularly pleased with the impact her OAITC lessons have had on one of her students who is on the autism. "When we were doing the cotton project it was the first time I saw him 100 percent engaged in learning," she said. "His eyes lit up. Of course he also may have been picking up on my excitement," she said.