Connie Copenhaver, Putnam City
“Welcome to Mrs. Copenhaver’s Class. Thanks for popping in,” reads a sign on a display table in Connie Copenhaver’s middle school science classroom at Western Oaks Middle School. The display is from a unit on states of matter using facts about popcorn drawn from the OAITC lesson “Pop, Pop, Popcorn.”
Students have concluded that popping popcorn causes a physical change but not a chemical change. “It is still popcorn, just in a different phase,” Copenhaver explains.
She teaches 7th and 8th grade science and one “A-Team” class for students who are struggling. She has 11 students in her A Team class and particularly likes using OAITC activities with them. Many are from low income families and respond well to hands-on activities.
“The popcorn lesson grabs their attention and also gets the attention of other students and teachers in the building because of the smell,” she laughed.
“Ag in the Classroom is my core,” and has been almost since I first started teaching, Copenhaver said. “I like that the lessons are inquiry-based and project-based and that they are easy to use. I have never had a lesson not produce what I wanted it to produce,” she said.
This is her first year teaching middle school, but after using the program for years with her elementary students, she finds the lessons are easily adjusted to any grade level and any time frame.
One project she will be continuing with her middle school students is one she calls "Monarchs to Mexico." She uses pollinator lessons from OAITC to supplement the program. On her wall are hanging large colorful monarch wings created by former students.
“At Western Heights, we dressed up one day as monarchs. Students wore all black with their wings.” Some of the students agreed to give up their creations so Copenhaver could use them for future classes.
Copenhaver searches the leaves of bluevine in the courtyard at Western Oaks for tiny Monarch eggs. Bluevine attract Monarchs.
Her students have also taken entomology projects to the state fair and used OAITC entomology lessons along with a lesson about the history of the state fair.
Copenhaver uses the OAITC website, receives the monthly e-newsletter, and has been on summer tours. She has attended state conferences and school inservice training and has received several OAITC/Oklahoma Pork Council grants.
Copenhaver has been teaching since 1999. “I didn’t start teaching until I was 40,” she said. Her first teaching job was at a different school in Oklahoma City’s Putnam City District. It was while she was teaching there that she was first introduced to Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom, “probably by another teacher,” she tries to recall, “or maybe just from online research.”
Over the years she has also taught in the Oklahoma City area at Nichols Hills, Deer Creek, and Yukon. She taught for six years at Western Heights before moving back to the Putnam City district to Western Oaks.
At Western Heights Copenhaver started a garden with funds from a special OAITC garden grant. For that project she was grateful for the help of OU students who came out to work. In addition, garden centers in the area offered discounts for teachers and Lowe’s provided a grant to pay for fencing. When she left the district, 4-H took over care of the garden, she said.
Copenhaver grew up in Elk City, but she is from a family of Colorado ranchers. Her dad’s family was a pioneer family in Colorado, and her mom’s family immigrated from Oklahoma to Colorado during the Dust Bowl. They moved back to Oklahoma when her dad got a job working on the Tom Steed Reservoir project with the US Bureau of Reclamation.