This is a feature from the April 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.
Turkey Creek Middle School
Plant City, Florida
2017 NAAE Region V Outstanding Middle/Secondary Agricultural Education Program Award Recipient
If you have ever visited the Plant City area of Florida, you know strawberries play a vital role in the community. Each spring, the city hosts the Florida Strawberry Festival, which includes carnival rides, contests, concerts, and many other activities and events to celebrate the year’s strawberry harvest in Eastern Hillsborough County.
Located in the heart of strawberry country is Turkey Creek Middle School. Originally a “Strawberry School,” which closed for three months each spring for strawberry picking season, the middle school’s agriculture program has integrated the community and school’s rich and deeply-rooted history to feature a very unique learning environment for its students.
Turkey Creek Middle School has two agriculture teachers, Buddy Coleman and Allison Sparkman. Together, they are able to reach 230 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students through their program’s Strawberry Project. Coleman and Sparkman coordinate with local farmers and the community to provide their students with classroom and land laboratory experiences to learn about the cultivation of strawberries. The program is able to grow and harvest two acres of strawberries each year – providing students the opportunity to learn about strawberry farming from start to finish.
Coleman and Sparkman are able to use the Strawberry Project to teach students about modern agricultural practices in a hands-on setting. The students learn about drip irrigation and plastic mulch in the fall, as they form the strawberry beds and prepare the land for strawberries. The students are also introduced to GPS technology, as they set straight rows for their crop and plant their strawberries. Along the way, they also learn about plant structure, strawberry varieties, proper planting procedures, the impact of fertilizers, pest and invasive species management, and a host of other things that directly impact strawberries and other crops.
“If we can enable every child that we teach to think and act independently, then the students will be prepared to finish their education and become productive members of society,” said Sparkman.
In addition to the students learning about strawberry farming, they are also able to showcase what they have learned to the local community and to other students. Each year, the program hosts local kindergarten students for a field day, full of experiential learning. The students at Turkey Creek show the kindergarteners how to pick their own strawberries, identify plant parts, and discuss the impact of insects, weeds and diseases on the strawberry crop.
Each of our agriculture programs has a unique feature. It is essential that, as educators, we provide our students the opportunity to experience and engage in agriculture in the context of our local communities. What is your Strawberry Project?
Turkey Creek Middle School is the 2017 NAAE Region V Outstanding Middle/Secondary Agricultural Education Program award recipient. For more information about this award category and to see the other award winners, follow this link.
The Outstanding Middle/Secondary Agricultural Education program award is partially sponsored by Monsanto as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
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