Melanie Fowle, ANCW Past President, shares what it is like to take advantage of a Window of Opportunity.
In 2011 California Ag in the Classroom was celebrating its 25th Anniversary and to acknowledge this milestone, sent ag organization volunteers to present to 10,000 students in San Francisco classrooms. How did this experience ultimately change one of the focuses of Siskiyou County CattleWomen, a group at the very tip of northern California?
It is all about taking advantage of a window of opportunity. A few Siskiyou ladies were assigned to Gordon Lau Elementary, downtown China Town, San Francisco. On the way home, a 350 mile drive one way, the thought entered my mind, “Siskiyou should adopt Gordon Lau.” The vision was to do presentations in the classroom and with livestock, alternating each year. Siskiyou CattleWomen gave their stamp of approval, as did Principal Dr. Chew.
Classroom lessons have varied. The Chaney books* have been used with the younger children, and the 4th and 5th grades have viewed PowerPoint presentations on beef nutrition and life on a cattle ranch. This past year all students participated in a beef heart dissection lab, made possible by Siskiyou County’s 4-H Extension guru Jacki Zediker, who is also a cattlewoman member.
This year is livestock, a favorite of students and staff. Cattlewomen have teamed up with the county’s high school 4-H members to make this happen. Through experience we have morphed from bringing larger animals, draft horses and full grown cattle, to the smaller versions that fit in the back of extended bed pickups. There will be pens with sheep, goats, hogs, chickens, rabbits, dairy, (hopefully a beef calf this year – usually it is a twin), roping station, and this year the recreational/learning station with Beef Pong, borrowed from Chaley Harney, Montana Beef Council.
With just 4 weeks’ notice, Dr. Chew and his staff allowed Siskiyou to teach one of the Farm Bureau Foundation’s pilot lesson plans to the 4th and 5th grade students, an extra visit for the year. Not only was this an adjustment for staff but a 700 mile round trip for the presenters. Then this past fall, Siskiyou was able to reciprocate with donating $3500 to a school-wide drive to provide computers for each student, something that would not only help with daily lessons but with end of the year state testing.
In final evaluation, what is adopting Gordon Lau all about? It is taking advantage of a window of opportunity to share the story of agriculture with children and staff in an urban setting.
The story of the Siskiyou ladies is inspiring! How have you and your state affiliates made a difference? What are you thinking of or planning for promotion and education? Send us your stories and photos…we’d LOVE to feature you in a blog! Email us at email@example.com and reference BLOG POST in the subject.
* Melanie’s usage of “The Chaney books” is in reference to the children’s agricultural education book series by twins Rianna and Sheridan Chaney, daughters of Rebecca Long Chaney. For more information, or to order the book series, please visit the Chaney’s website.