Big Horns host WAIC Institute
Hyattville – On a warm summer day, 31 teachers and educators from around the state gathered at the Keith and Linda Hamilton ranch north of Hyattville for a morning full of agriculture and natural resources education.
The sessions on June 13 were a part of the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) Institute, an annual event that seeks to give Wyoming’s educators an in-depth understanding of what it takes to manage the state’s agriculture and natural resources.
On June 13 the teachers learned about sheep and beef production, multiple use on federal lands, rangeland management, watersheds and predator management. During the other two-and-a-half days of the Institute, they heard a Code of the West presentation, toured Bryant Honey in Worland, visited Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site and visited with 2012 Wyoming Beef Ambassador Kate Richardson. They also toured Pepsi in Worland, visited with John Schneider on his sugarbeet farm, heard information from the Wyoming Mining Association and participated in a segment on wild horse management.
“It was a long week, but a good week,” says WAIC Executive Director Jessie Dafoe. “It’s fast-paced, but we don’t take our task of ag and natural resource education lightly, so we try to make the most of each day.”
“It’s always tough to pick a location, because Wyoming is so beautiful and diverse. We try to rotate, and we hadn’t been to the Big Horns in quite some time,” she says.
WAIC also chose the Worland area for this year’s tour in part because of the Hamilton family’s long involvement with the organization.
“Linda Hamilton served as our first chairman 25 years ago, so we thought it was appropriate to come back to this area for our 25th anniversary,” says Dafoe, noting that Keith and Linda’s son Doug is WAIC’s current treasurer. “We thought it was very fitting, and we’re grateful the Hamilton ranch hosted us.”
Keith Hamilton says hosting the event has been in the planning stages since February.
“We look at it as an opportunity to tell our story to the people who present information to our children,” he says. “We feel like we need to do as good of a job as we can in explaining our points of view, and what better way to do it than through the classroom?”
Hamilton adds that the key point in the presentations on their ranch was multiple use.
“We wanted to explain to people that there are many different uses on federal lands. We’ve all evolved together with different uses, and we think we can move forward doing the same thing,” he says. “We don’t need to demean other users – we need to all get along, because, if we don’t, federal lands will end up being a single use.”
Teachers came from diverse Wyoming locations, from Lyman to Carpenter, and ranged from preschool and elementary educators to high school teachers and conservation district education specialists.
“We’re up 11 participants from last year, so we hope that means we’re doing something right,” says Dafoe, saying that publicity is always something that WAIC is working on.
“We always try to figure out better ways to involve more teachers,” says Dafoe. “We send out announcement in local papers, ask local superintendents to share information, send information to all curriculum directors and letters and flyers to each school.”
Dafoe says that, at $50, it’s a great deal for teachers.
“Because of our sponsorships we can cover lodging, meals and materials,” she says. “Plus, it’s worth up to three UW graduate-level credits.”
“We do have repeat teachers who come every year, and that lets us know we’re doing something right,” she notes.
Dafoe points out the opportunities that exist for teachers to return home and impact their students.
“Even though we’re teaching only 31 educators here, we can multiply that by 30 when they go home. It’s an exciting experience to know that’s the type of work we’re getting done with three-and-a-half days in an Institute,” she says.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.