‘Culture of the Land’ connects teachers to local research

By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon

wheat-field-80MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Educators and students from six area school districts recently engaged in hands-on activities that will help them integrate science curricula and collaborate with each other. The “Culture of the Land” workshop at Washington State University Mount Vernon focused on local grains and bread making.

Workshop participants visit the Bread Lab. (Photo by Kim Binczewski)

“Teachers are seeing many connections across the curriculum that they would like to integrate into their classrooms,” said event organizer Meagan Dawson, special programs coordinator for the Burlington-Edison School District. Those include the history of grains in the Skagit Valley, crossbreeding research, how to use the scientific method while baking bread, connecting to local farmers and sustainability.

“The event allowed teachers to be engaged in hands-on activities that connected physics, chemistry, biology, botany and math,” she said. “The instruments and measurements on one (objective) side of the (WSU Bread Lab) and the baking, tasting and observation on the other (subjective) side is a great design that shows us how we learn and how we access what we learn.

Steve Lyon describes wheat field research plots. (Photo courtesy of Meagan Dawson)

“Our district is consistently building connections between our local businesses, nonprofits and research centers,” said Dawson. “We wanted teachers to be able to work in small groups with other K-12 teachers from other districts.”

Continuing connections also have sprouted between the youngest students and the research center, according to senior scientific assistant Steve Lyon, a workshop presenter who leads the field research portion of the WSU Mount Vernon plant breeding program.

“I’ve already had one request for wheat seed from Mukilteo kindergarten teacher Amy Albano,” he said. “She wants to incorporate wheat into her touch-taste unit … so her ‘mini-scientists’ can count the seeds, plant them and watch them grow.”