Thirty-Three Florida Teachers Win FAITC Grants

GAINESVILLE – Christmas is coming early for 33 Florida teachers who will receive nearly $45,000 in grant money from Florida Agriculture in the Classroom Inc. (FAITC) to fund agriculture-related projects in their classrooms this year.

Students at Florida schools stretching from the Panhandle to South Florida will learn how to grow plants in schoolyard gardens using traditional methods and using greenhouse and hydroponics technology. In addition, some of these classes, which reach students from kindergarten through high school, will learn how to process and market their crops once the fruits, herbs, ornamental plants and vegetables reach maturity, explore careers in agriculture and investigate Florida’s agricultural heritage by taking special field trips and reading books about the industry as it once was in a “A Land Remembered” and “Strawberry Girl.”

“Florida Agriculture in the Classroom Inc. is proud to fund these projects to help teachers include agricultural concepts in their language arts, mathematics, science and social studies lessons,” said Scott Emerson, chairman of FAITC. “Teachers are the backbone of our program, and we strive to help them come up with creative, fun ways to teach students about how their food is grown and how important agriculture is to them.”

Charles Bronson, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and a former agriculture teacher, commended the strong caliber of teachers who are pursuing agriculture-related classroom projects with the help of FAITC teacher grants.

“They are following in the footsteps of Janet Gray, an elementary school teacher in Orange City, Fla., who won the national 2003 Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award by including agricultural applications in everything she teaches,” Commissioner Bronson said.

FAITC gives out grants each fall to teachers around the state who prove through an application process they have agriculture-related school projects that qualify for funding. In addition, FAITC awards grant money each spring to volunteers around the state who show through an application process they have agriculture education projects and field trips that qualify for funding.

Florida teachers who will receive grants in the coming weeks include:
North Florida
• Janice Richardson, a kindergarten teacher at Lee Elementary School east of Tallahassee, who will receive $320.25 for her “Square Foot Gardening” project in which students will plant, cultivate and harvest a school yard garden.

• Linda Andrews, a kindergarten teacher at Woodville Elementary School in Tallahassee, who will receive $1,500 for her “Seeds to Grow On: A Nutritious Garden Program” project in which students will plant an herb and vegetable garden to learn botanical and nutritional lessons.

• Miff Mills, a teacher of special needs students from kindergarten through fifth grade at Caroline Brevard Elementary in Tallahassee, who will receive $853.70 for a project called “Nutritional Gardens of Brevard” so students can plant an herb, vegetable and butterfly garden outside a school café called The Cub Café. Herbs and vegetables harvested from the garden will be used in dishes served at the café.

• John Toussaint, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at Greensboro High School in Greensboro west of Tallahassee, who will receive $1,970 for his “Greensboro High’s Green Thumbs” project to help build a greenhouse and fund field trips to a local University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ research station and plant nursery.

• Elaine Dixon, an exceptional education teacher at Navarre High School east of Pensacola, who will receive $10,160 for her “Plants R Us” project to build a greenhouse and hydroponics garden to help students learn how to grow plants from seed to the finished product.

• Coleen Fuquay, a sixth through 12th grade teacher at Technical Learning Center in Perry southeast of Tallahassee, who will receive $5,500 for her “Hydro-Berry” project to build a hydroponics garden where students will grow strawberries.

North Central Florida
• Tonya Merritt, a first grade teacher at Lake Panasoffkee Elementary School south of Ocala, who will receive $400 for her “First Grade Flower and Vegetable Garden” project in which students will plant, cultivate and harvest a schoolyard garden.

• Rachael Fox, a teacher at Sidney Lanier/Anchor Center in Gainesville, who will receive $269.90 for her “Growing Healthy Eating Habits” project in which students in the first grade through fifth grade will plant a fruit and vegetable garden to learn agricultural and nutritional lessons.

• Kathy Morgan, a teacher at Lake Panasoffkee Elementary School south of Ocala, who will receive $605 for her “Water U Growing?” project to plant a vegetable garden that will teach students in first grade through fifth grade agricultural concepts and character building.

• Margaret Trimm, a teacher at Bronson Elementary School near Gainesville, who will receive $250 for her “Soil Made My Supper” project so students in the third grade through fifth grade can plant a garden to learn about growing seasons and the importance of agriculture in peoples’ lives.

• Cyanne Williams and Cherith Davenport, teachers at Archer Community School near Gainesville, who will receive $2,596.20 for their “Discovering Florida: Our Land, Food and People” project to teach gifted fourth and fifth graders about Cracker Florida by reading a novel about Florida’s agricultural heritage called “A Land Remembered,” prepare foods eaten by Florida farmers during that time and taking field trips to a local ranch and to Cracker Country at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

• Marylou Watson, a fifth grade teacher at North Sumter Intermediate School in Wildwood, who will receive $575.76 for her “Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic and More Roses” project to grow “old” Florida roses in a schoolyard garden and teach students about the historical significance of these plants and the difficulties growing them.

Central Florida
• Mary Beth Crist, a language arts teacher at Blue Lake Elementary School in DeLand, who will receive $850 for her “Read to Seed to Feed” project in which students will plant winter and spring vegetable gardens, cook and serve the vegetables produced to school administrators and community leaders, read about tropical fruits grown in Florida and develop an agriculture vocabulary list.

• Tashanda Brown-Cannon, a teacher at William S. Maxey Elementary School in Winter Garden, who will receive $2,000 for her “Agriscience Explosion Phase Two” project in which students from kindergarten through fifth grade will develop a Florida agriculture calendar and will focus on a different agriculture concept each month.

• Cinderella Casebier, a teacher at Sadler Elementary School in Orlando, who will receive $500 for her “Let’s Explore our Garden” project in which fifth graders will plant a butterfly garden and observe the ecosystem as it develops.

• Kristine Worrell, a teacher at Citrus Elementary School in Ocoee, who will receive $408.08 for her “Bridging the Generations with Plants, Insects and Fun” project in which kindergarteners will plant a courtyard garden at a local assisted living complex where they will study the growth of plants, interaction of beneficial insects such as butterflies and lady bugs and share their observations with residents.

• Roel Ubungen, a science teacher at Horizon Middle School in Kissimmee, who will receive $511 for his “Florida Agriculture Spacebound!” project in which six graders will develop models of space station farms and nurseries.

• Laura Kerben, a teacher at Southwestern Middle School in DeLand, who will receive $400 for her “Hydroponics, Herbs and Habitat Health” project in which seventh graders will plant a hydroponics garden to grow either herbs or vegetables and learn about the importance of plant nutrient use.

Brevard County
• Barbara Kirker, a kindergarten teacher at Tropical Elementary School in Merritt Island, who will receive $120 for her “Life Blossoms with the Knowledge of Florida’s ‘Liquid Sunshine” project in which students will learn about the agricultural heritage of Florida and Brevard County through storytelling, which will include a story about a local long-time citrus-growing family.

• Deborah L. Pierce, a teacher at Fairglen Elementary School in Cocoa, who will receive $500 for her “Keeping Florida Green with Native Plants” project in which Earth Club students in the third grade through fifth grade will plant a garden of plants native to Florida so they can learn about conservation of natural resources.

• Lynne Gelinas, a teacher at Turner Elementary School in Palm Bay, who will receive $200 for her “Sow It, Grow It, Know It” project to plant a vegetable garden that will teach students in the fifth grade how to grow and differentiate parts of plants and use recipes to cook dishes using vegetables grown from these plants.

• Randi B. Ondo, a teacher at Atlantis Elementary School in Cocoa, who will receive $1,004.51 for a project called “Root’ing Around” in which students in the fifth grade will observe the roots of plants as they grow and adapt to conditions in the lab simulated to create droughts, floods and erosion.

• John P. Chybion, a teacher at Endeavor Elementary School in Cocoa, who will receive $2,905.70 for his “Endeavor Space Garden Project” to teach six graders about using alternative ways to grow things by setting up a hydroponics garden inside and vertical growing systems outside.

• Ceci Epperson, a teacher at Titusville High School, who will receive $700 for her “Blending Science & Art” project in which students in the school’s special diploma program in the ninth grade through 12th grade will plant foliage native to Florida on school grounds and will learn about careers available in agriculture.

Polk County
• Sandra Bush, Krista Greene and Jennifer Insua, teachers at Bartow Elementary Academy, who will receive $1,500 for their “Harvesting Florida’s History: A Century of Florida Agriculture” project in which fourth graders will learn about Florida’s agricultural heritage by reading the book “Strawberry Girl” and visiting the Cracker Country exhibit in Tampa.

• Michele Parmer, a teacher at Bartow Middle School, who will receive $3,003.77 for her “Inside Florida’s Horticulture Industry” project in which sixth, seventh and eighth graders will learn about growing vegetables using hydroponics and traditional methods and the ornamental nursery industry by propagating plants in a green house.

• Bonnie Gaynair and Bridgett Fetter, teachers at Lakeland Teen Parent, who will receive $800 for their “Eating Healthy for a Lifetime” project in which teen parents will learn about healthy eating habits by preparing healthy snacks and meals, and food safety techniques to be used when they shop and prepare food. In addition, they will visit a Publix Super Markets Inc. store and Family Fundamentals Resource Center.

Tampa Bay Area
• Sandra Lockhart, a teacher at N.B. Broward Elementary School in Tampa, who will receive $1,250 for her “Watch Us Shine, Watch Us Grow” project in which students in kindergarten through fifth grade will learn about plant cultivation by planting gardens in a glove and transferring the seedlings to a schoolyard garden. In addition, some of the students will take field trips to a local strawberry field, orange juice processing plant and tropical fish farm and learn about careers in agriculture.

• Jane Beach, a teacher at Braden Middle School in Bradenton, who will receive $1,097.65 for her “Strawberries as a Specialty Crop/The Value of Hydroponics” in which students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will grow strawberries in a hydroponics garden to explore plant development using non-traditional methods.

• Christine Walders Cena, a teacher at Palma Sola Elementary School in Bradenton, who will receive $819.95 for her “Palma Sola Garden & Technology” project in which fourth and fifth graders will use a video camera to broadcast to the whole school lessons in plant growth, beneficial insects and canning food like Florida pioneers once did.

• Melissa Massey, a teacher at Bowling Green Elementary School in Wauchula, who will receive $141.31 for her “Pumpkins, Pumpkins and More Pumpkins” project in which students in the third grade through fifth grade will study seed development and grounds keeping at their school, and will read books about pumpkins to learn about plant cultivation from when the seed is planted to when the pumpkin is harvested.

South Florida
• Pat Kuentzel, a teacher at South Miami Elementary School, who will receive $660 for her “FCAT Goes Organic” project in which third graders will learn about plant growth by planting an organic garden, and will cook vegetables grown in the garden using solar cookers.

• Carole Sites, a teacher at Chancellor Charter School at Lantana, who will receive $500 for her “Greenhouse Growing” project in which students in kindergarten through fifth grade will grow vegetables and other plants in an existing greenhouse using traditional and hydroponics methods and will sell products of the garden in an entrepreneurial venture.

FAITC is a Gainesville-based, non-profit organization funded by the agricultural specialty tag and charged with promoting agricultural education in Florida schools. It provides curricula and materials and holds special workshops to help teachers and volunteers incorporate agricultural concepts in their school lessons and class field trips.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT LISA GASKALLA BY CALLING (352)846-1391 OR EMAILING


Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
CHARLES H. BRONSON, Commissioner
florida-agriculture.com