Teachers Teaching with Soybeans

(Male) Brian McCornack, Department of Entomology at Kansas State University and I was speaking with the Kansas Soybean Commission today about a second year project that actually involves K through twelve teachers, not only in the Manhattan area, which is, of course, where K-State is, but also engaging teachers outside of Manhattan as far as western, Kansas, Goodland, Kansas and the ability to bring in those teachers from outside three-eighty-three was really primarily due to the support by the Kansas Soybean Commission this last year, which was kind of their first year funding it, but this is actually our second year. It was primarily supported by the United Soybean Board and Tiffany Heng-Moss at the University of Nebraska invited me to come in to participate in this process of getting teachers excited about science, but approaching it from an agricultural perspective, so using soybean as a model system and, so, simply changing the type of seed you use to talk about germination kind of actually then allows teachers to make connections across an entire system and so, you’ve got instead of talking about lima beans where there’s hardly any acreage planted in Kansas, to someone like soybean who has, you know, over four million acres, so literally defines the landscape around where most of these schools reside, yet surprisingly, a lot of the kids don’t know much about what soybean is or why we need it, let alone all the environmental factors that can influence growth and germination or even the pests and other critters that I’m interested in since I am an Entomologist, how that impacts production and the decisions that growers have to make year-in and year-out and, so, the program has been very successful so that the whole point is again, to teach them about inquiry and, so, not just giving them the answers to the test, but really allowing them to ask questions and investigate through science and, so, I should say the Scientific Process, which is what again, science is doing on a regular basis. So we bring them into the institute and they work with real life researchers over a three week period of time, eight hours a day and what we do is we break that up where they get exposure to scientists and how they think and what they do and then we spend an afternoon actually developing a lesson plan around that topic and, so, at the end of the last institute, which again, was partially funded by the Kansas Soybean Commission, resulted in over twenty different lesson plans for grade levels one through twelfth grade and, you know, not just the germination as that was kind of an easy one because I think a lot of teachers can relate to that, but it really challenged my teachers to think kind of outside of the box a little bit by introducing for example, a physical activity, so capture the flag. My kids are very familiar with what capture the flag is, but let’s change the characters and think about biological processes going on in a leaf and, so, renaming the characters and thinking about the processes that happen between them when the stomata’s open and close and why those open and close and how’s that relate to capturing a flag and how can we again, infuse the science into play to not only get them excited and interested, but get them thinking kind of outside of their own normal setting. So the United Soybean Board is very interested in kind of expanding this model into other states and kind of what my more immediate interest are maintaining that momentum that we have here in Kansas and really looking to the Kansas Soybean Commission to provide that support to bring those teachers in for three weeks to give them a stipend so they can pay for the daycare, pay for their travel to come here and really immerse themselves in science, immerse themselves in the system of soybean and, so, that they can again, think about the world around them in a different way which surprises most people that it’s really driven by agriculture.

 

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