Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

May 8, 2013

FFA members give teachers a break at NDES

Amanda Browning
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — This week is teacher-and-staff appreciation week at North Decatur Elementary School (NDES), and students are going out of their way to show their gratitude to those who make learning possible.

Students at the elementary school were told this was their week to say thank you and make the teachers and staff smile.

Every student in the school wrote a thank you note to be put into the “jar of joy.” The jar at NDES is overflowing with thanks. In addition to thank you notes, several cheerleaders did a cheer for the staff, while students cheered for the cafeteria staff during lunch.

The theme for this year’s appreciation week is “rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.” Thanks to the hard work of several people, teachers at the elementary school are getting a thirty-minute break while FFA members from North Decatur High School (NDHS) teach students about agriculture.

Former agriculture teacher Holly Wagoner of the North Decatur PTA contacted Dierckman while searching for activities for the students during appreciation week. Dierckman is the director of Agriculture Education at Farm Bureau, and she suggested the “Ag Literacy” program sponsored by the insurance company. The program focuses on teaching children about agriculture, especially corn. Dierckman contacted NDHS agriculture advisor, Scott Johnson, about utilizing some FFA members to make the event possible. Johnson did a lot of work in preparation for the event, organizing students and helping them with their “Ag in the Classroom” presentations. Twenty-six classes received a special lesson appropriate for their age level.

In addition to being a fun break for teachers and students, Farm Bureau’s Ag Literacy program presents the school with the possibility of winning a $500 grant. The Indiana school that educates the most students on an agricultural-related subject before May 31 will win the money.

Student in kindergarten, first and second grades were read the book “Awesome Agriculture: Corn A-Z” by FFA members. They also did a seed identification activity and snacked on popcorn donated by Rural King. The FFA members asked questions and interacted with the children to peak their interest.

Students in third, fourth, and fifth grade made corn putty, a substance they could easily change from liquid to solid form. The older students completed a worksheet about the uses of corn and were read a book called, “Corn: The Story of Agriculture.” A session of questions and answers and a snack of popcorn rounded out the half hour.

The sixth grade classes were taught to make a form of biodegradable plastic from corn starch, corn oil and water, and did some agricultural-related activities. The activity took longer than the others, as students had to microwave their ingredients to make the biodegradable plastic. FFA members did a question-and-answer session and passed out popcorn to students.

So far, the week appears to be a smashing success. The FFA made it possible to give the teachers the gift of time, and generous donations from individuals and businesses have left a nice selection of other gifts for teachers and staff as well.

Both Wagoner and Dierckman said there was a huge amount of local support for teacher-and-staff appreciation week. Many local businesses donated goods or services, some of which - like a night’s stay in a hotel - are being given away via drawing to a lucky staff member.

Teachers often have to buy supplies for their classes with their own money, so gift bags of classroom supplies will be given to every teacher as an additional sign of gratitude.

This event wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of several people, Dierckman said. Though this was the first year for the Ag Literacy program, there will surely be more in the future, she added.

She also praised the combined efforts of Farm Bureau Insurance, NDES PTA, the FFA and Scott Johnson in creating a very special and entertaining day for both students and staff.

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004