Talking about Curriculum that Pairs Food & Farm with Core Standards with Whitney Choate (Episode 301 Podcast Transcript — Grounded by the Farm)

November 3, 2021

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Total Runtime 26:59


Janice Person 0:01
Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice Person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love.

Here we are with the first episode of the third season, the podcast itself is not going to change much. We’re going to do a little bit different this year in that we’re going to be talking to farmers about some of the things they do broadly. So we’re going to talk to some farmers who are doing agritourism, we’re going to talk to Sam who are selling from their farm direct, we’re going to talk to farmers about that kind of thing more than individual foods they grow. But I think it’s going to be incredibly interesting for you guys. And I’m really excited about it, because I’m going to get out and travel some. And that has been missing. So I think that’ll bring a lot more to the website in terms of videos and some other things to help bring this alive.

Want to just explain. This episode is going to be a bit different. We’re not talking about agriculture as much as we are about some new materials that pair our podcast with lesson plans for teachers, primarily in those third to fifth grade levels, but certainly can extend the on that. And we think it would be great with homeschooling parents, as well as occasionally when parents have extra time with kids at home and want something that you might all enjoy that kind of keep everybody busy. Maybe you have friends who are teachers or things like that, you could pass along a little information, make sure you stay around to the end, because we’re going to be explaining one of the units that we’ve got of this curriculum. It’s about popcorn, and some of you guys may remember Ella and Ollie popcorn, we’re going to explain to you how you could get a copy of that. And now let’s go ahead and get started with that conversation with Whitney. So today we are talking to Whitney Choate about this whole thing and how it’s come together. Because as of now we have curriculum live online, to help people talk about food and farming. So Whitney, do you mind, give people a little bit of background about you.

Whitney Choate 2:28
I am a born and raised city girl that went to school in the country and married a farmer and have now been immersed in farming. And just I have learned so much from that. And I’ve definitely seen a whole nother side of agriculture and maybe what was portrayed to me just growing up. And it’s been a really cool learning experience. And my husband and I even have our own farm now. And we’re hoping to grow it and things like that. So that’s really cool. And then on the professional side, I’ve been in education for over 10 years, I have multiple degrees in elementary, and special education, autism. And then I am almost done with my Instructional Technology degree as well. So I’ve taught in the classroom, I’ve taught abroad, I’ve taught all ages. And I’m currently transitioning into a instructional coaching position. And so I am now here to work on curriculum and help teachers even more and because that’s really like my passion these days. And so working on this project has been kind of the perfect tie into this new position and writing that curriculum, making it easy for teachers to utilize or even parents and things like that. And so it’s just super cool.

Janice Person 3:45
I think the timing of it just seemed amazing to both of us. I know you didn’t anticipate yourself applying for an internship 10 years into your teaching career and everything. But you were at that point, were going back to school, and you were trying to move into something different in agriculture. So you were doing a pivot, like so many of us have been pivoting over the last couple of years at least. And it just seemed to fit so you hit the ground running and accomplish so much over the summer while you’re still getting another degree in grad school. So

Whitney Choate 4:21
easily so I need things on my plate. Yeah, he get

Janice Person 4:24
bored easily. I love it. Well, I’m a city girl, too. We’ve talked about that a lot. And I loved that as I do these stories with farmers that different people’s children have also been interested whether they’re in the farm or city. It’s funny one of my friends who’s a farmer, he says his kids like to listen to it, because they get exposed to crops that they’d never see in their area. And so I think there’s a little something in this for everybody, right? But for people like us, we don’t always have a lot of access, even if you’re really interested in food and you’re interested in food. You know, going to the farmers market on the weekend may not be fully representative of farmers. And so one piece that I think is unique about this is we pull the actual farmers voices into the curriculum, is that something that is kind of common?

Whitney Choate 5:16
I think it’s something that education is trying to work towards with curriculum, and just adding that in and showing unique stories increasing that diversity, the experience of meeting people that you don’t normally interact with, whether it’s geographically or for whatever reason. And so I really wanting to take that and make sure that that was a key component into this. So if there’s somebody you know, that doesn’t like a lot of my students have never been to a farm, you know, they kind of live in an urban like area. And so using this, this really just kind of bridges the gap, and it makes it more real for the students, it makes it Oh, there really is a person that does that, instead of like, kind of like a story like way off in the distance. And it’s not really tangible. Yeah, I just really think it’s cool.

Janice Person 6:06
Well, I remember living in a really rural area of Mississippi. And you know, not everybody’s family works in farming or is on farm. So even in really rural areas, I found, you can have people who don’t necessarily understand some of what’s happening around them, just because they’re not focused in on it, right. So even if you’re interested in it, you may not have access into sort of meeting like a popcorn farmer or something. So why don’t we kind of talk about how you pulled these pieces together? Because luckily for me, I know I don’t know this stuff. So I just said, Okay, well, let me know what you come up with. And we’ll take a look at the first one, and we’ll work from there.

Whitney Choate 6:49
Oh, I think a good thing to know about me is I have tried to be that teacher that everybody always wants to have or wanted to have when they are in school, I wanted more teachers like myself, my mom was a teacher. And she did crazy experiments all the time, was always getting in trouble by her principal for setting things on fire and all these different things. And so I’ve tried to really follow follow in her footsteps by doing crazy things, but making it so it’s a learning experience for my students. And so I really tried to utilize that. And translate that into these different units that we’ve created and making sure that it wasn’t just something that a teacher or a parent is going to hand to their kid, they’re gonna sit there like, you know, it’s 1950, just do your work and be quiet. You know, I want it to be interactive, I want it engaging. I want the kids to have fun, because if you’re not having fun, then you’re not gonna learn.

Janice Person 7:41
Yeah, I like that. And it’s kind of a discovery path, right? Like you’re learning different things. Why don’t we kind of walk through how a typical one of these units kind of works out? Do you have one you want to talk through?

Whitney Choate 7:55
Oh, yeah, I really like the popcorn, one that we have done. And so

Janice Person 8:02
I like popcorn, let’s just be honest, right? So if I get to eat popcorn and talk about it good.

Whitney Choate 8:09
Yeah, even better, right? I, my husband, I just had some last night. So I feel that. But the way this is set up, there’s about five pages of student work. But it starts with a teacher guide. And the teacher guide has a list of all of the materials that you would need for the entire thing. It lists the standards for Missouri, which are very comparable to other states, what state standards are hitting, and then it gives any specific like directions or like, hey, I’ve done this project before, here’s a tip on how to do it or to make it more successful. Like here’s my little insights and things like that, which that really makes this kind of a unique package. And then I also have included like outside links. So it links to the podcasts. And then some of these have links to like national associations or other great just resources that if you or your kids want to dig deeper into it, it’s there.

Janice Person 9:08
Yeah, I mean, you made these units, the probably four or five pages for the students and then all the teachers resources, you made them pretty deep, but sometimes people just want something a little bit different. And so so you’ve made that teacher guide so that if teachers want to do it on the superficial for now, versus if they want to do just what we have or go really deep on it, because you never know each class could be different. And depending on the interest level of the students, and sort of the educational, you know, experience you know, sometimes you have gifted schools, sometimes you have schools that kids have a lot on their plate besides learning so maybe they’re not able to go as deep

Whitney Choate 9:51
for sure. And so like going into that on the student pages, it starts every unit starts with just a general back Cuz, you know, a lot of our students, probably everyone has heard of popcorn probably even eaten it. But not all of the units are like that crawfish, for example is one that is a little, huh. You know, that’s kind of a regional thing and whatnot. And so there’s just great background information about each crop, or subject. And so popcorn we kind of talk about why does it pop and different ways to eat it other than the traditional way or the most popular? And then I also just always have some sort of, like, critical thinking question to make the students Yeah. Okay. So you’ve read like this little blurb, but what can you take from that? How does that apply to your life?

Janice Person 10:44
Yeah, I love that. You mentioned that a lot of students may not have tried some of these popcorn is easy, right? You know, one of them we talked about is tilapia with a Ugandan farmer, right, which is very unique compared to an Illinois farmer growing popcorn, right. So two very different sets. And, you know, in the school system where I lived before, I know students hadn’t had a lot of different foods and things, their families live very close to the poverty level and buying a bunch of food that you’re not sure people in the house are going to like, or you’re not sure how to cook it or all those things really did enter it. And so the school had active programs to get grants and to kind of encourage that greater development of the palette. So that then when students were in the grocery store, they can even help their parents go, Well, we like this, here’s what we had. And so I like the idea that this can help students explore some of those foods too.

Whitney Choate 11:47
Oh, totally. And I just, I love that connection, too. And a lot of these, I also elaborate on different ways to eat it more than just the common most common way, or at least in my life, the most common way to eat them. And some of these kind of just blew my mind. But you know, like, I’m like, Oh, I never thought about doing that. And so I’ve had to try different foods as I was making these and make sure like, Oh, that’s cool. And so I’ve learned a whole lot. But, you know, it’s definitely helping to bridge that like school to home learning experience,

Janice Person 12:20
and I know, some of the kinds of things you have, you actually get to experience some of the food itself, right, like we do pumpkins, we talk about pumpkin pie in a bag. But there are others where you do different kinds of experiments or different kinds of interactions. How did you figure out what kinds of things to do so that teachers know, my sister, remember, was a teacher, and if she wasn’t hitting exactly the standards that she had to get done, then creativity wasn’t allowed, kind of, like you have to hit the standards, no matter what.

Whitney Choate 12:55
Yeah, it’s, it’s unfortunate that, you know, we’re such as educators, we’re under such a crunch, to get, you know, all of these different things. And so I really tried to overlap as much as I could, and so that you’re hitting multiple subjects at the same time, you’re making the best use of your time, and that these could work by themselves. Especially like maybe if you have a sub one day or something, or you need to pull something out of your hat real quick, because plans just kind of exploded, and you just gotta, you know, roll with it. very normal in the world of education. And, you know, or you can maybe the class like, is reading a novel together, and it has to do with popcorn or going to the movies or something, well, you could pull this in and match it up with that, or maybe you have a specific skill that you’re working on, like force and motion in, you know, science class, and you’re wanting to expand that, well, how does that impact real life? Or what’s an experiment to go with that? And so then we have some of these units that cover all of those different skills.

Janice Person 14:04
I’m still blown away because you did science, math, entrepreneurship, you know, the, the range of different topics that you’ve been able to integrate in and show how it applies to the curriculum. And yet, they’re the kinds of things that I looked at, and I thought, wow, I would have really loved to do that when I was in school.

Whitney Choate 14:31
Exactly. And that’s like, I love to encourage other teachers to like, get past you know, just the standard in a box curriculum. And so this, like, yes, it’s a curriculum package, but yet it’s there’s so many different ways that you can incorporate it that you can pick and choose, you could do it all. And then you can touch on so many of these different skills, your soft skills, your essential skills with the entrepreneurial ships and some group work. If you Choose to do it as a group or individual, you know, all these different things like there’s so much flexibility with this, which is what I like, because every teacher wants to do it, you know, the way that they think is best for their kids, which is very different from classroom to classroom.

Janice Person 15:14
Yeah, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had a niece or a nephew or some young kid in my life, tell me something they’ve learned in school that just amazed them, right? And then they get to teach you about it. So the hope I have is that kids will want to share this stuff back, right? And that parents may be a little more interested or something. I know, when my nieces and nephews have been in school recently, one of my nephews was like 10, which is the age group that we’re hitting on here, right. And for Christmas, he wanted cooking lessons. So it’s, it’s really relative kids this age, are really interested in food. And some of them like to garden and some of them like to, you know, really be adventurous about different things. So I think this is one of those great pieces that can go back and forth with home. And, and hopefully we can keep it going with the podcast with all the future episodes and stuff, because I’m pretty stoked about it.

Whitney Choate 16:14
Yeah, for sure. And I just like that, you know, the kids, like, yeah, we have this maybe targeted to fourth and fifth grade. But it really like that’s the reading level that it’s made. But this really can be used with probably sixth, even seventh grade as low as third grade. And then like, for me, working in special education for so many years. This is something I would pull from my high school students, because it’s looks great. And it is interactive, it has graphics and links, hyperlinks, and different things like that. But it’s also not like cutesy kidzee. So like, as a special ed teacher, I had to find a lower level of activities for my high school students, but I also didn’t want it to look like something for a seven year old. So you know, this, I feel like really, truly bridges that gap.

Janice Person 17:05
Now, if that sounds exactly right, and is this part of that movement towards project based learning that folks are doing,

Whitney Choate 17:12
I think that this would be a good foundation to kind of go along with that, like, these aren’t necessarily true project based learning units, but they’re a good kickstart. So like, if you want to, to learn about something with a project base unit, or if you wanted to expand on a project, like the entrepreneural one, or we have one where students have to create propaganda, and then maybe they have to, you know, track the data to see if their propaganda actually worked, if it was successful in getting across what they wanted to advertise. And so like, it can work definitely very well with PBL.

Janice Person 17:54
That sounds great. I think as we’ve put this together, so it’s, it’s so wild, because a year ago, I was thinking, you know, like activity sheets. Now I realize activity sheets are like entry level compared to what we’re talking about here. Because a lot of things and I picked them up at the store myself, right? Like they have word searches, or they have coloring pages, and things like that. And, and I understand the value of those is different. And sometimes I bought them because I needed to keep a kid busy, right? But this really is the kind of learning busy happy kind of space is what we’re going for to get that excitement of critical thinking and to wonder like, wait a minute, how would I go about doing something like that? And really discovering not only food and farming, but discovering themselves a little bit, right?

Whitney Choate 18:49
That’s it like these aren’t just like, worksheets? Yes, it’s a PDF document. But it’s interactive. There’s like for each of the vocabulary words, it goes to a video that explains that a little bit more if you want to learn more about it, or some of our farmers have videos of them on their farms or have active social media. And so those kinds of links are included to see what it really is and to tie it into like, again the real life situation, and just going you know, deeper with that critical thinking and then application of skills. That’s just really key like how can you apply this what can you do differently in this experiment, or why did it happen? Not just, here’s a fact memorize it.

Janice Person 19:34
I think when a lot of teachers hear this, they’ll think immediately Oh, they must be on Teachers Pay teacher’s. Right? I was not aware of Teachers Pay Teachers because I’m not in that homeschooling teaching set. But as soon as I mentioned to people, we were working on this. Everybody asked Are you going to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. So my assumption is there are a lot of people who are developing thing, these types of curriculum for various things. And what we hope is people when they go looking for food and farming and who doesn’t like to talk about pumpkins as October rolls around, right? that these are things that could really fit into what they’re doing. We

Whitney Choate 20:17
have so many things that just naturally fit in with like that upper elementary curriculum or really anybody’s curriculum, especially with the holiday foods, or a eggs like eggs are such a big part of our society and different foods that we offer and things like that. And so it’s just, it’s just so easy, so easy to use, so easy just to apply it and use it and you know, a lot of these also for teachers or parents, such little prep, you don’t need to get a lot of things together, like you can do it that last minute if you need to.

Janice Person 20:52
Yeah, a lot of them are things that the materials are things you would have at home or for teachers, they may have them already in the classroom or something right like it’s, it’s, it’s not something that you’re going to have to make a big huge shopping trip for is at least the reviews we’ve been getting from a few friends that have been checking it out.

Whitney Choate 21:11
Yes, it’s very, like economical supplies because again, as a classroom teacher, I have spent way too much money doing stuff like this. And I wanted to keep that in mind. Because, you know, we didn’t get into teaching for fame or money.

Janice Person 21:24
So I love it. We’re gonna be selling these on Teachers Pay Teachers and on Etsy, because not everybody is a Teachers Pay Teachers kind of person. Hopefully, we’ll be able to now and then have some special things going on. I am going to be learning a lot about this process. Thankfully, teachers are willing to help me through it. As you went through this whole process, Whitney, I know we started off talking about that you had married a farmer and they’re now a city girl living in a farm environment and you have a farm with your husband yourself. Where were some places where you discovered things that you kind of went, Oh, wait a minute, I didn’t know about this stuff.

Whitney Choate 22:09
Well, first was just like crop identification. Like to me growing in a field or like driving on a long field, everything looked the same. And all corn was the same. And all the bush plants were the same? Well, no, am I alone is drastically different than soybeans and field corn is drastically different than sweet corn. And I know our students are you know, a lot of them will go through that same process,

Janice Person 22:33
when that comes to mind for me on that is this cranberries, looking at sort of how it goes through the process and how it goes through the year and stuff. And that’s something a lot of us have never had a chance to see, I think, you know, my, my image of cranberry farmer was always the people in the ads standing in the middle of a wet marshy environment, talking about cranberries for the commercials.

Whitney Choate 22:57
I love that unit because it taught me those things. So those were just you know, the typical pictures and videos that we’ve seen and learning that complete process of how a cranberry is made from farm to table. And you know, the different things like with that one I focused on like ecosystems and like density, why do cranberries float? And so that’s a really fun experiment for the kids to figure out what’s going to happen and why does it happen and all of those things?

Janice Person 23:25
Yeah, and I think some people will find farmers look like them that they may not have understood. The cranberry farmer, for instance, is a blond haired girl, right? You know, there’s, there’s all that kind of diversity among the farmers as well as the food diversity that we’ve been going for. And I think it’s nice for students to be able to maybe see themselves or their family members, we have some children that were featured in different episodes so that they can see that too. I’m really excited about getting it out there in the wild and getting teachers looking at it, we’ll have all the links on our site. So if people want to give it a look, and I would encourage as somebody who’s bought a lot of things for classrooms over time, you know, you can always think about giving a gift of some dollars to be spent on TPT it doesn’t have to go through us but it could go through other things on curriculum and additive to teachers and their classrooms. And for others there’s also donors choose as one of my favorites. So you know, while we’re speaking up for education and what we’re trying to do, do you have some other pet projects? Do you ever have people give you credit for TPT? That sounds like a great idea. I’ve never done it so I’m trying to figure out how it work. I

Whitney Choate 24:41
have not but I know you can buy gift cards for there and that would be any teachers like favorite thing that added caffeine so you know one of the two.

Janice Person 24:54
I love it. I love it. All right. Did I miss anything as we were talking here, Whitney.

Whitney Choate 24:59
I don’t think so. I think you nailed all the points.

Janice Person 25:02
All right? Well, we hope to keep Whitney working with us for a while, have some great ideas of how to move this forward. And one of our colleagues, Molly just reminded me these kinds of things would be great holiday gifts for teachers, if you’re already thinking, you know, what do I do this year for a teacher, maybe you give them some, some cash that Teachers Pay Teachers or donors choose or said along those lines, holiday gifts always matter when it comes to teachers, telling them thank you for doing what they do for our kids and our communities.

So for those of you who stayed with us, please make sure you check out our show notes, the URL that the show notes directly to that’s where we’re not only going to have this episode on our website, but we’re going to have the actual unit on popcorn so you can download it, you can see what we’re talking about, about how these lesson plans pull all of these various factors together. In each of our podcast episodes, you know how farmers will talk about the things that they’re really interested in stuff. And we’ve used elements of each of the lesson plans to really go with that.

The curriculum is incredibly diverse, as are the farmers that we’re talking to. And I love that, you know, kids are going to get to see farmer’s faces, they’re going to see faces that look like theirs in their family. And I hope that this will be something that teachers and students love as much as we love doing it. It was quite a busy summer and fall for us to get these things done. You can check us out on social media, we’re going to start putting this educational kind of vibe in with some of our other social media pieces. Until next time, thank you for joining us.

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