This month, our Teacher Feature is Danielle Geissler of Mountain View Elementary School in Corvallis. She was one of our nominees for AITC Teacher of the Year for her impressive year-long commitment to teaching with agricultural themes. When we interviewed Danielle, her passions for teaching and the sciences come to life through her classroom activities.

  1. What are the most outstanding lessons you use to help students learn where there food comes from?

As a fourth grade teacher, I like to begin the year helping students discover Oregon’s rich agriculture.  Students use the Get Oregonized book and the Student Atlas of Oregon to discover Oregon’s six regions and the commodities each provide.  First, I divide the students up into six equal groups.  Each group of students is in charge of researching one region and putting together a poster or PowerPoint presentation to teach their classmates about their region, with the focus of agriculture.  During each presentation students note the qualities of each region.  When students compare different maps such as the Average Precipitation map, Average Temperature maps, Topography map, Vegetation Zones map, to the Forests map, Rivers and Lakes map, Pacific Salmon map, Farm and Ranch Lands map, Crops map, etc. they begin to understand why certain commodities are produced in certain areas of Oregon, and why they aren’t in other areas.  What great resources the Get Oregonized text and Student Atlas of Oregon are for helping kids discover Oregon!

As the class moved through the year last year, they participated in the Food Adventurers program where they learn where their food comes from and how to combine ingredients to create healthy snacks.  Once a month, students got to actually make a healthy snack to eat, as well as take home the recipe so they could make it at home.

Ms. Geissler’s students chop purple cabbage for a healthy snack.
  1. What are some of the other hands-on lessons do you teach in your class?

Next Generation Science Standards recently rolled off the press, and they ask that students “Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.”  I brought in my five-dollar, estate sale incubator and placed 35 eggs in it.  We monitored and recorded the temperature and humidity of the incubator twice a day for three weeks. Throughout the 21 days of embryo development, students discovered the internal and external structures of the egg that supported survival and growth of the embryo.  I brought in and broke open day-old fertilized and non-fertile eggs so that students could discover the structure of an egg.  We had to rely on videos, plastic models, and an egg candler to view the developing embryos, since I refused to crack open an egg each of the 21 days to view development.

Students monitor egg hatching for 21 days on a chick cam projector.

Once the 21st day arrived, I allowed students to spend hours watching the chicks hatch from their eggs.  Through this students were able to see new structures, functions, and behaviors developing as the chicks hatched and then adapted to their new world.  Students found it intriguing that even without a hen, the chicks instinctively knew how to crack out of their shell, walk, eat, drink, peck, etc.

Once chickens begin hatching, students are visibly excited while watching the projector.
Chicks are great models for studying structures needed for growth and survival.

As the end of the year neared, students learned about the Oregon Trail.  I took my class to the Stauffer-Will Farm in Hubbard Oregon to see a farm in person. We discover what Oregon commodities were and are still used to make candles, bread, candle holders and shingles.

  1. What is the greatest reward for you in teaching about where food comes from?

In previous years I have had students research Oregon commodities and write essays about them.  Then I enter the top three essays into the Ag Fest Essay Contest.  I have had two students win the essay contest which allowed our whole class to go to the Ag Fest for free, all expenses paid.  This was such a great way for all of the students to not only write for a real purpose, but to engage in hands on agricultural experiences.  This is a highlight of the year.

Ms. Geissler and her students.

If you are or know an exemplary teacher of agricultural and natural resource themes, and would like to be featured in our blog or nominated for Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom’s Teacher of the Year program, please send us an email at