Agriculture Teacher, Tunstall High School, Dry Fork, VA
2016 NAAE Region VI National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award Winner
Jessica Jones, agriculture teacher at Tunstall High School, in Dry Fork, VA believes in providing her students with the opportunity to not only learn, but to have fun while doing so – hence the term FLEARN. Her approach to agricultural science incorporates STEM concepts into her curriculum, while also providing students with hands-on experiences in the classroom.
“FLEARN is a term I coined which represents my students actively learning through fun and engaging activities,” said Jones. “All classroom and laboratory experiences are rooted in the fundamentals of decision-making, problem-solving, teamwork, cooperation and leadership.”
Jones focuses on problem-solving in her classroom. She has her students use the scientific method to examine daily tasks and solve real-world problems. She attributes her extensive knowledge of agriscience to her training as a DuPont National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador (NATA), a NAAE professional development program. Through this training, she has learned many techniques to incorporate science in her curriculum.
Jones’ students model and investigate watersheds, explore toxicology, examine selective breeding, analyze the digestive systems of ruminants, non-ruminants and pseudo-ruminants, extract and observe DNA, and combust fossil and biofuels.
A great example of Jones’ FLEARNING style is The Bare Bones Challenge, a lesson she received as part of her NATA training. In this agriscience lesson, her students model the anatomical structure of the major livestock species using pipe cleaners, hot glue, and 11 types of pasta.
Students research animal characteristics, bone and muscle structure, and animal and environmental needs and learn how skeletal features correspond to animal movement, agility and muscle growth. Her students use this information to evaluate animal production in the United States and how what goes on at the farm directly impacts what ends up on your plate.
The Bare Bones Challenge has Jones’ students question how they view current agricultural production practices and urges them to think about how to maintain an ecological balance in production agriculture by assessing not just bare-bone essentials, but all animal and environmental needs. Her students have to explain what a farmer has to do in order to maintain his active farm, factoring in all components of a healthy environment in order to provide consumers with optimal choices at the grocery store.
By showing her students the in-depth science behind agriculture, Jones encourages critical thinking and problem solving – important life skills for her students to possess as they apply for colleges and search for employment after high school.
“I believe and know my students are our future farmers, teachers, scientists, veterinarians, and more,” said Jones. “With an ever-increasing population and the need for food, fiber and energy on-demand, I urge my students to think through their actions, find ways to remedy problems, search for the hidden answers, question the unknown, and always believe they are the bright and energetic minds who will serve to be productive citizens of our global society.”
Jones’ goal for her students as they continue to FLEARN is that they will be able to recognize the positive impact they will have on their future by serving as proactively-thinking community leaders.
Jones is the 2016 NAAE Region VI National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award winner. 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 award is sponsored by Herman & Bobbie Wilson as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. For more information about the National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award and to learn about our other regional award winners, click here.
The DuPont National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA) has over 10 years of successfully cultivating agriscience and inquiry-based learning in agricultural education. The Academy serves to train agriculture teachers on how to enhance the science that is already present in agriculture, as well as develop students as problems solvers and thinkers through the inquiry-based teaching method. For more information about this professional development opportunity, follow this link.