CONESTOGA – Kaitlin Taylor is eager to plant acres of agricultural knowledge into her lesson plans for Conestoga students this upcoming school year.

The district’s new agricultural educator completed a pair of training sessions this summer that will help her reach that goal.

Taylor traveled to Lincoln for Curriculum for AgriScience Education (CASE) training using a STEM-based model. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) format gave teachers such as Taylor many new tools to use in their agricultural classrooms at school.

“I enjoyed getting to learn about this curriculum through a STEM-based model,” Taylor said. “This curriculum challenges students to seek answers through problem-solving scenarios. It is a great way for students to learn about entrepreneurship and agribusiness in relation to their own lives.”

Matt Kreifels, an assistant professor of practice with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Community Department, said the CASE sessions have paid dividends for schools in recent years. The Nebraska Soybean Board provided funding to the Nebraska FFA Foundation for scholarships for teachers. The Nebraska FFA Foundation then helped Taylor and other agricultural leaders attend the classes.

“We expect our teachers to know everything and teach all areas of agriculture, food and natural resources,” Kreifels said. “The reality is they have very minimal resources to equip both themselves and their classrooms to teach this valuable information. The CASE Institute is unique and very beneficial to a teacher. They can easily implement that curriculum right in their classroom.”

Taylor spent one day taking part in a four-hour agribusiness training session. She learned different ways to incorporate soybeans into her lesson plans. She will teach students about the process, benefits and challenges of raising soybeans in Nebraska.

Taylor will implement project-based lessons in her agribusiness classes at Conestoga. Students will have an opportunity to create their own business during the semester. They will learn about basic agribusiness structures, the financial background of owning a business, risk analysis and marketing through exploration and case study projects.

“Soybeans are such a valuable commodity in the state of Nebraska,” Taylor said. “It is important for students to understand how soybeans are produced and marketed by evaluating risk management and market scenarios in agribusiness.”

Taylor spent June 17-28 at the CASE Food Science and Safety training seminar. She learned various ways to incorporate soybeans into food science classes.

Some of the CASE curriculum for food science involves lessons about sensory analysis, nutrient testing, food processing methods and safety practices in the food industry. CHS students will be able to create and market their own food products as part of a class project.

“I am excited to see students at Conestoga get to utilize technology used in the food science industry,” Taylor said. “They will get to conduct experiments from modifying recipes to seeing how food spoils over time. Students will experience hands-on learning opportunities within food science and learn how the soybean industry is impacted by nutrient analysis, regulations and product creation.”

Taylor will oversee a Conestoga agriculture department that has produced many top students in their chosen fields. Members of the Conestoga FFA program have captured district, state and national awards over the past decade. Taylor said she is looking forward to helping the Cougars continue that success in future years.

“I am very excited to start teaching at Conestoga this fall!” Taylor said. “I look forward to building relationships with students and members of the community as well as growing the agricultural education program by providing opportunities for students to succeed and pursue their passions.”

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