HARRISONBURG — Local preschool teacher Lauren Arbogast, a “city girl, born and raised,” could have hardly predicted that she’d ever be teaching kids about farming, let alone be named as the state’s first Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year.
Arbogast, 31, who has been teaching at W.H. Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg for about six years, recently won the inaugural Virginia award from the state chapter of Agriculture in the Classroom. The national organization promotes incorporating agriculture into K-12 education.
Even though Arbogast grew up in Newport News, she’s become more interested in agriculture since she married her husband, a farmer. The two now live on a farm in Lacey Spring, where they raise poultry and beef cattle.
“I started teaching and just started realizing how little the kids really understood about where their food and their clothes and their commodities came from,” Arbogast said. “Through that, I started realizing that this was really an important and essential topic to everything.
“It’s the basis of getting up and going in the morning, because you have to eat breakfast and you have to put your clothes on.”
Every Friday is “Farm Friday” in Arbogast’s pre-K classroom, where she ties in agricultural themes to lessons the kids are already learning. Teaching the “ch” sound, for example, is a great excuse for kids to be exposed to chickens.
Last year, Arbogast coordinated Farming in the City Day, an agricultural field day of sorts for students at Keister and the city’s preschool programs. About 750 students attended the event, held in April, and were introduced to farm chores and machinery and were able to pet farm animals.
The program, which will be repeated this spring on April 29, was a major reason Arbogast was given the award, said Tammy Maxey, senior education program coordinator for the Virginia chapter of Agriculture in the Classroom, based in Richmond.
“Harrisonburg is in a rural area, and still many children do not have any connection with how their food is grown and produced,” Maxey said. “[Arbogast] is making great efforts to change that perception.”
Arbogast received an all-expenses-paid trip to the national Agriculture in the Classroom conference, which will be held in June in Hershey, Pa. She will make a presentation on Farming in the City Day.
Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or email@example.com