John Seiser, a fifth and sixth grade teacher from Blairsburg in central Iowa is the first recipient of the Iowa Excellence In Teaching About Agriculture Award. Seiser competed against other elementary, middle and high school teachers to earn the honor. He was recognized at a ceremony at the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting held in Des Moines on December 1.
Seiser regularly integrates agriculture into his classroom curriculum including science, math, social studies, reading and language. His projects include planting and growing heirloom seeds, composting with worms, and hatching and raising turkeys. His future plans include installing a pumpkin patch and rabbit hutch. The awards program is a project of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and is supported through a grant from the CHS Foundation.
Teacher puts ag in the classroom and inspires students
"Students are starting to grow gardens of their own and are talking about future careers as market gardeners, agronomists, horticulturists and farmers," says Seiser.
Seiser will receive a $500 stipend to support his continued efforts of integrating agriculture into his classroom curriculum. He will also attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference to be held in Phoenix, Ariz. in June 2016.
Seiser is in his 25th year of teaching school, currently at Northeast Hamilton Community School District where he is also head football coach. He earned his B.A. in elementary education from Buena Vista College. Seiser has personal ties to agriculture as the owner of Treasure Acres Farm raising Southdown Babydoll sheep, miniature donkeys, and pumpkins. With his classes he makes use of the school's greenhouse and works with the Seed Saver Exchange to preserve heirloom seeds. He connects this work to Iowa Core science and social studies standards and teaches seed dissection, soil science, history and variety of other topics.
Teaching about ag has helped students with special needs
Through another engaging student project Seiser hatched turkey eggs and raised them to market weight. Some students went on to show the birds at their county fair. Students learned how to candle eggs, track food intake and measure growth of the birds. Students plotted their findings on graphs and made strong ties to the mathematics they were also learning. Seiser was also a recipient of a 2015 Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher Supplement Grant and plans to continue to incorporate agriculture into his classroom activities.
"Teaching agriculture has created a special place for a couple of my students with severe learning disabilities: a special place to excel," says Seiser. "They feel a sense of accomplishment whey they help gather compost materials, water plants or feed the turkeys." Principal Mike Kruger adds, "Mr. Seiser is very passionate about these core areas and he knows how beneficial these projects are to all students, especially our special needs students."
About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa's students about agriculture. The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. Iowa is a leading producer of agricultural products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. IALF will support existing agriculture education efforts such as FFA, 4-H and Ag in the Classroom.
IALF was created through a joint effort of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Silos and Smokestacks Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, GROWMARK, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, CHS Foundation, the Iowa Energy Center, Farm Credit Services of America, and Theisen's. For more information visit IALF online at IowaAgLiteracy.org, on Facebook, and Twitter.