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DeWeese stays engaged with education, continues progress to ag education goals

Gale Rose
Pratt Tribune
Pratt-Skyline agricultue teacher and FFA advisor has had a busy few months, teaching and learning all at the same time. She recently completed her masters degree (virtually) from Fort Hays State University, undaunted in reaching her education goals in the pandemic climate.

For all the problems COVID-19 has created, it has forced teachers to stretch their creativity abilities to bring viable online lessons to students that suddenly found themselves sitting at home, staring at a computer screen and having to take more responsibility for getting their homework done.

Anita DeWeese, Skyline middle and high school Agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor, has gleaned material from a variety of sources to deliver lessons for her students who are miles away from the classroom. 

DeWeese has a unique perspective on what students are going through and how difficult it can be to take classes online because while she was preparing agriculture lessons for high school students, she was also finishing up an online masters degree from Fort Hayes University. 

For her agriculture classes, she has been in communication with other agriculture teachers who share classwork ideas and what has worked in other districts. She has gathered material from commodity groups for Kansas corn, wheat, sorghum and cotton. She takes this information and gives it a personal touch for her students.

“I take bits and pieces and figure out how I can use it in my classroom,” DeWeese said. “The main thing I try to do is show students real life applications.”

Her lesson topics include septic system placement, planting lawns, preparing a house foundation, planting seed feed rates, preparing an optimal garden and lawn, evaluating soil texture and more. 

Students on farms keep journals on practical lessons like repairing equipment, planting crops and working with cattle. 

One lesson was the process to hatch an egg. While most of the class worked online, four had access to incubators at their homes and and followed the process from embryo to chick with a real egg. Each student tracked development over the 21 days hatching period. Students got updates every week on the progress.

DeWeese had a “Chick Camera” so all students could watch egg development every day. 

Students had to brainstorm and think on their own. If students ask a question, it was turned back on them. They had to learn how things are done and why things happens., DeWeese said. 

“What did they do that was successful and what would they change to make it better or different,” DeWeese said. 

DeWeese used National Ag in the classroom. It’s an online curriculum where agriculture teachers submit lesson plans. These lessons have already met all the competencies necessary to meet state standards. They meet once a week and share how their lessons work in the classrooms as well as parts the didn’t work so well.

“We use networking to make ourselves better teachers,” DeWeese said. “We make it more exciting and more engaging for students.” 

DeWeese’s contacts are high school teachers plus a few college teachers. 

DeWeese has done soils training throughout the United States including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. She collect soil samples from all these states and incorporated them in her lessons.

She meets with Ag teachers from other states. Her lessons show how Kansas agriculture methods are similar and different. 

All this sharing of knowledge has helped DeWeese become more creative with her lessons. 

It’s difficult to teach online and DeWeese has reached out to families online to make sure the students are staying on track and understand the lesson. 

“That was my main thing. I wanted to make sure students were staying engaged,” DeWeese said. 

Besides agriculture related topics, DeWeese said. 

DeWeese used Kansas Seed to STEM, National Ag in the Classroom, Nutrients for Life, American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, Kansas Farm Bureau, Great Plains Fire Exchange, Curriculum for Agriculture Science Eduction as resources. 

During this time, DeWeese worked eight on line semesters for her “Transition to Teach Degree” while taking an extra 18 hours to get her masters degree from FHSU at the same time. 

She has been teaching for three years at Skyline with her animal science degree while working on the teaching degree.