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Award-winning local teacher digs into farming with her students

Teaching is a passion for Christine Bow. She is dedicated to integrating agricultural education into her classroom and inspiring her students to develop an understanding and appreciation for farming and all that it entails.

Bow, a first-grade teacher at Jackson Primary School in Batavia has been selected as the 2014 New York Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year. She was nominated for the award by Genesee County Agriculture in the Classroom Coordinator Barb Sturm, who works for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“Since agriculture is Genesee County’s largest industry, it’s important for students to see it as a viable career choice,” Bow said. “People think of farming as a farmer and shovel, but modern farming is technically advanced, efficient and innovative.”

This is the first time a teacher from Western NY has been selected as the recipient of this prestigious award and it is a huge honor for Bow. She credits Cornell Cooperative Extension, in particular Strum, for her invaluable resources: assistance with agricultural teaching materials; help with incorporating farming into the first-grade curriculum; and providing learning opportunities with the local agricultural community.

Katie Bigness, coordinator for New York Agriculture in the Classroom, praised Bow for her innovative approach to cultivating interest in agriculture.

“The ways in which she has weaved agricultural concepts into opportunities for teaching and learning inspires students, teachers, and families,” Bigness said.

Bow incorporates books, games and activities with farming themes in her classroom. Students learn about horticulture by potting seeds and caring for the plants they grow. They learn about incubation and embryology through hatching chickens, which teaches them about the chicken’s lifecycle, its importance to man and its role in the reproduction of the species.

“Interacting directly with plants and animals is fun and interesting for kids,” Bow said. “Agriculture brings real-world situations into their lives and it fosters an excitement for learning.”

She believes illustrating agricultural concepts enhances their understanding of social studies, reading, math and science.

“Right now we’re studying early civilizations and how the ancient Egyptians in Mesopotamia dug canals to grow their crops. The children will eventually make models to test their irrigation systems. We make the connection to modern agriculture,” Bow said “and, with math being used on farms for things like measuring area or volume, I teach the concepts by using examples such as animal feed rations.”

“One of the students favorite activities is “Dairy Days.” This allows them to learn about farming in a hands-on and engaging way. Children from all over the county take a field trip to a local dairy farm where they milk cows, while learning about the nutritional benefits of milk. They also visit different stations where they learn about veterinary care, composting, recycling on the farm, soil health, irrigation and farm equipment. Students see the many career options available at local farms after meeting with farmers, vets, milk truck drivers, as well as machine and computer operators. 

As recipient of the Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Award, Bow will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Hershey, Pa., in June.

She is a Batavia native and a graduate of Geneseo with 30 years of teaching experience. She lives in Bethany with her husband, Randy, and their two grown children, Amanda and Eric.

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