Andrea Fristoe

Teacher Spotlight: Rachel Sauvola -- Agriscience from the Ground Up

Blog Post created by Andrea Fristoe on Oct 19, 2015

Photo - Rachel.Sauvola.jpg

Rachel Sauvola
New Richmond High School, New Richmond, WI
2014 NAAE Region III Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award Recipient

When Rachel Sauvola, agriculture teacher at New Richmond High School, in New Richmond, Wisconsin, had the opportunity to design ag classroom facilities for her new high school, she took the opportunity to expand the agriscience offerings in her program as well.

Five years ago, a referendum was passed to develop new schools in Sauvola's district, including a new high school. Sauvola was able to design the new agriculture department facilities as she wanted them, allowing her to "cash in" all of the ideas she had gained throughout her career for amping up the science content in her classes. The new facilities include a larger greenhouse than she previously had, an aquaculture lab with three 800-gallon tanks, and an animal learning center. Sauvola's goal with the new design was to showcase science and non-traditional facets of agriculture, since her community is being urbanized.

With her new facilities, Sauvola is able to offer her students innovative experiential learning opportunities. Most notable is the addition of three new courses to her program -- food science, veterinary science, and advanced fish and wildlife. These courses offer students the opportunity to experience science in a hands-on way every single day.

"It's my job to market the program to the students so that they can see this is the place that will help them become wiser consumers who are ready to make hard and fast decisions now and in the future," said Sauvola.

Her food science students conduct scientific experiments as they monitor growth on the plants they will use as part of their final projects -- preparing a recipe with ingredients they have grown themselves. Students in Sauvola's advanced fish and wildlife students test water quality in the aquaculture tanks. The students in her large animal science class work in the animal learning center to conduct feed studies and make management decisions based on best practices. All of her students are directly involved in science-based agriculture every day they are in her classroom.

Sauvola also allows her students to turn in their assignments in any form that fits their learning style, as a means to embrace their interests and strengths. From chicken anatomy rap songs to puppet shows about pollution, Sauvola wants her students to view her classes as valuable and interesting, as well as applicable to their daily lives.

However, not all of Savoula's innovative approaches can be attributed to the new facilities. Many student experiences and responsibilities are a direct result of Sauvola's severe allergies to plants and animals.

"I rely on my greenhouse, aquaculture lab, and animal learning center managers to assist me and their peers with the daily undertakings of our facilities," said Sauvola. "Students recognize and appreciate their leadership roles and are proud of their contributions to the program."

Incorporating science in the agriculture classroom can seem like a daunting task. However, with the right tools and resources, it can transform an agriculture program into a hands-on learning community for students to experience science and apply it to their daily lives. Putting the responsibility for learning into the hands of the students takes that opportunity to the next level. Not everyone is given the opportunity to design their own new facilities, but everyone can build a new program by laying a foundation for agriscience education.

The National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who have inspired and enlightened their students through engaging and interactive lessons in the science of agriculture. This program is sponsored by PotashCorp as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

To see the other 2014 National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recipients, click here.

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