A Utah fourth grade teacher who teaches students to solve agriculture challenges, a Maine teacher of fifth and sixth grade students who also sponsors a school garden club, and six other teachers from around the country were selected as the 2022 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award winners. 

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), and Farm Credit partner each year to honor teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade (Pre-K-12) from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more. 

Among the group of this year’s winning teachers is Meaghan Porritt, a fourth-grade teacher at Lewiston Elementary in the Cache County town of Lewiston. Porritt has incorporated agriculture into her classroom using Ag Challenges, trivia, embryology and comparing methods of plant science used in greenhouses, hydroponics, and aquaponics. 

“[Agriculture] provides clothes for us, food that we eat, fuels our cars, our homes,” Porritt said. “It’s a great tool to use for the kids because it’s so relatable and it gets them engaged and helps them learn more and gets them excited about learning as well.” 

Porritt, who started her dream job teaching at Lewiston five years ago, has been implementing agriculture in the classroom for the last three years. She started with a small aquaponics kit. With grant funds received over the years, Porritt has updated her aquaponics tank and purchased incubators for the other fourth-grade classrooms.  

“Agriculture opens up a world of opportunities for my students,” Porritt said. “When students experience agriculture as the context for learning, students achieve so much because they are invested in their own education.” 

Porritt and the rest of the teachers selected will be honored at the 2022 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York the end of June. 

“These outstanding teachers recognize that agriculture also is fertile ground for teaching botany, biology, chemistry, finance, climatology, and arts, in ways that any age or level of students can understand, appreciate and apply to their daily life,” said Dr. Carrie Castille, director of USDA-NIFA, which provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITC. “When a student makes that real-life connection to the lessons their teachers share, students continue to learn and absorb the true meaning of those lessons when they leave the classroom. Innovative teachers like these are often responsible for awakening a student’s love of learning, nature, and science.” 

“National Agriculture in the Classroom and its state and territory program leaders are honored to recognize and celebrate these talented teachers for the innovative ways in which they use agricultural themes to teach core curriculum concepts in science, social studies, language arts, and nutrition,” said Denise Stewardson, president of NAITCO and director of Utah Agriculture in the Classroom. “Their efforts are critical in cultivating an understanding of and appreciation for agriculture in this generation of students.” 

Every year, the Utah Agriculture in the Classroom program presents ten $500 awards to teachers throughout Utah who have used innovative classroom projects to teach agricultural concepts through reading, writing, math, science, etc. The purpose of the award is to encourage teachers to implement agriculture as part of their core curriculum. 

For more information on Utah Ag in the Classroom and how County Farm Bureaus and local schools can work to use agriculture to make classes even better, contact Denise Stewardson at 435-797-1592 or denise.stewardson@usu.edu, or visit utah.agclassroom.org.