Andrea Fristoe

Developing Valuable Life and Employability Skills through Hands-On Plant Science Curriculum

Blog Post created by Andrea Fristoe on Mar 8, 2018


This is an article from the March 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.



Our students learn by doing. Hands-on classroom experiences are what set our agriculture programs apart from core content classes and keep our students coming back for more.  For Tamara Whitcomb, agriculture teacher at Mount Baker High School, in Deming, Washington, providing students with experiential learning both in and out of the classroom is a crucial component of her program, as it contributes to the development of life and employability skills that will help her students succeed after high school.


Whitcomb has developed a comprehensive plant biology course which her students can take to fulfill a science credit at Mount. Baker. Students in this class gain vast knowledge and experiences with greenhouse management, plant anatomy, pest management, soil and fertilizer application, plant propagation, and landscaping. The skills they learn in each of these areas allow them to conduct a variety of vegetable research projects in the greenhouse, modify and maintain the school’s landscaping, and grow tomatoes that are harvested and used in the high school cafeteria’s menu.


After rigorous training in plant biology, Whitcomb’s students are able to take her ornamental horticu

lture class. This course is designed to transform the knowledge her students gain in plant biology into valuable life and employability skills. In this course, the students grow, manage, market, and sell the flowers, vegetables, and herbs for the annual Mount Baker spring plant sale. In addition to this, the students also maintain the school’s one-acre orchard. The orchard has a variety of apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees, as well as raspberry and blueberry crops. Since Whatcomb County is one of the nation’s leading raspberry and blueberry producers, it is essential that Whitcomb’s students learn the skills necessary for proper berry production. PhotoExperientialLearning3.jpg


Whitcomb developed her plant science curriculum because she saw the value and need for plant production skills and knowledge in her community. It is for this reason, she was named the 2017 NAAE Region I Outstanding Teacher of the Year award winner. This award program recognizes NAAE members who are at the pinnacle of their profession — those who are conducting the highest quality agricultural education programs. The award recognizes leadership in civic, community, agriculture/agribusiness and professional activities. Outstanding agricultural educators are innovators and catalysts for student success in agricultural education. Follow this link for more information about the award category, pictures, and press releases of all our outstanding teacher regional award winners at the 2017 NAAE Convention.


The Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award is sponsored by Caterpillar, Inc. and Tractor Supply Company as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.