Wyoming education – WAIC seeks statewide lesson input
“The Wyoming Stewardship Project mission is for kindergarten through 12th grade students to gain an understanding of Wyoming’s vast resources and become informed citizens, capable of serving as stewards of Wyoming’s future,” explains Jessie Dafoe, executive director of Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC).
WAIC is asking for help from Wyoming’s citizens to ensure that students are receiving a well-rounded education as the foundation for their futures here in their home state.
“Our vision is a collaborative effort between agriculture, energy, natural resources and the education community to identify key learning objectives for development of classroom units,” Dafoe continues.
With feedback from all segments of the Wyoming economy, WAIC hopes to create classroom lessons that teach students the necessary skills for making important decisions for the state as they become adults.
“We want the highest quality of life for Wyoming citizens, who fully understand our resources, how to manage them and ultimately become stewards of our multi-use state,” she says.
Agriculture, energy and natural resource management all operate within the same space, and WAIC wants Wyoming students to be involved and engaged, with a solid understanding of different concepts and critical thinking skills to navigate through them.
“We want to make sure our lessons are project-based,” Dafoe adds. “We don’t ever want to tell students what to think. We want to teach them how to think and use critical thinking skills that they will be able to apply in their lives.”
Currently, Wyoming citizens can add their input to the conversation by visiting the WAIC website and clicking on the link for the Wyoming Stewardship Project at the bottom of the homepage.
“We are going to be gathering survey responses until Sept. 18,” Dafoe says.
WAIC representatives will also be reaching out to industry leaders throughout the state in agriculture, energy and natural resources.
“Hopefully we will reach people through print and online publications, and I hope that others will share this project as well,” mentions Dafoe.
Citizens in Wyoming who would like to contribute are strongly encouraged to participate and share their expertise.
“We are looking for everyone to have a voice as this is truly Wyoming’s project and is making a difference for Wyoming’s youth. Every voice matters,” she states.
After the survey is complete, participants will have the opportunity to make financial contributions and sign up for email updates about the project.
“Any support, whether it’s input from the survey or an investment to make this project a reality, is something we would be extremely grateful for,” she states.
After survey data is collected and reviewed, the WAIC team will create theme maps, outlining educational concepts from kindergarten through eighth grade. Teachers from around the state will then be involved in the process, evaluating the concepts and creating lesson templates.
“These are going to be authentic Wyoming lessons, written by and for Wyoming educators,” comments Dafoe.
The program will be piloted in classrooms during the 2016-17 school year, with follow-up meetings the next summer to identify strengths and weaknesses.
“With the pilot project, we will have teachers who helped in the creation of the project, and they will have a teaching partner who did not,” Dafoe notes.
Using this strategy, teachers who helped write the lessons can clarify points for other teachers, and those who aren’t part of the writing process can highlight confusing elements of the program.
“We are going to focus on the idea that a graduating senior will ultimately understand all of the concepts,” she explains.
The WAIC team will also be working with the Wyoming Department of Education and the education community across the state to ensure that a comprehensive program is created.
“It is important to have teachers from all across the state. We don’t want teachers from just one county or one school district represented but a very collective group of educators to make sure that we have a well-represented group,” she remarks.
Dafoe is looking forward to the development and implementation of the WAIC Wyoming Stewardship Project.
“We’ve had tremendously successful programs with our bookmark program, educator of the year award and our educator institute, which is probably one of our most important development opportunities that we have for educators,” she comments. “What our Wyoming Stewardship Project brings to WAIC is really the substance that educators in Wyoming need.”
Acknowledging that the project is a big undertaking, Dafoe says, “We are excited about it, and I can’t think of a more worthwhile endeavor for our youth. We appreciate the support to make this project possible, empowering our youth to have the tools necessary to serve as stewards of our great state.”
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.