Innovative packaging can save lives. That’s what Angel White, a Perquimans County High School agriscience teacher, learned at this summer’s 12th annual DuPont National AgriScience Teachers Ambassador Academy.
White, 38, said the academy gave her a new perspective on teaching. While oftentimes education involves passing on content knowledge, “the things (students) should be doing are looking for the things that don’t exist yet,” she said.
While touring DuPont’s packaging facility at its Chesapeake Farms in Chestertown, Md., White saw packages the company uses to provide milk to starving children in areas of the world that lack clean clean water. The packages have powdered milk on the top and water in the bottom, so adults can simply mix the two together within the package and instantly have milk, she explained.
“I thought, ‘Somebody had to come up with that,’” she said.
Following an application process, DuPont selected 49 agriscience teachers to participate in the academy, with the goal of these teachers sharing knowledge they gained on inquiry-based learning with other teachers and with their students.
Through completing the program, White became an “Ag Ambassador,” joining the ranks of 250 teachers from across the country who have gone through the academy over the past 12 years, a DuPont press release said.
Currituck County High School agriculture education teacher Missy Swain, 31, completed the academy last summer and said it was very beneficial.
“I can honestly say it’s the best professional development I have ever been to,” Swain stated.
White said she was the only teacher at this year’s academy from North Carolina.
“Agriculture education is like a family; we get together and collaborate and share info,” White said. But prior to the academy, which took place July 13 to 18, she said she had not worked much with teachers from other states.
“So this was an eye-opening experience, meeting people who had never seen lighting bugs,” she quipped, adding that she learned of many differences in agriculture education and in the students from state to state.
She also learned methods and sample activities for implementing inquiry-based learning, which is more student-driven than is typical instruction,
“You don’t do as much frontloading with the kids,” White said. “You get them asking how and why and figuring it out.”
Swain said she hadn’t had any prior training on inquiry-based lessons before the academy, but has since incorporated these into her classroom, and continues to do so. The kids find the “thinking outside the box” challenging at first, but end up telling her it’s fun by the end of the project, she noted.
As Swain did this past year, White will travel to several conferences to present what she learned. She already gave a workshop at Perquimans’ staff retreat, she said. This year’s Ag Ambassadors will present in teams of four at both the National FFA Convention in Kentucky and the National Association of Agriscience Educators in Tennessee this fall, she said.
The academy helped prepare and excite her for the upcoming school year — White’s 15th as a teacher.
“It has really impacted me, (and) was really inspirational to me, to meet peole so on fire for education in a time when education is being attacked,” White said. “It gives me the ability to share with my peers and help make education better, not just here, but throughout the United States.”