East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, November 25, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Image 21

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Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Hermiston sophomore Jenna Wallace teaches a class about the life cycle of a pumpkin plant to a classroom of third-graders at West Park Elementary School on Tuesday
in Hermiston.
On a mission to ag-vocate
Hermiston High School students bring science, fun to elementary schools
East Oregonian
Hermiston High School sopho-
more Jenna Wallace stood Tuesday
morning in front of a class of third-
graders at West Park Elementary
School, unfazed by her sudden role
reversal from student to teacher,
and enthusiastically launched into
a carefully planned lesson about the
life cycle of a pumpkin.
It all starts with a seed, Wallace
explained, which later grows into
a sprout and then a vine. The vine
produces bright yellow flowers,
which eventually become small
green pumpkins and, finally, the
big orange pumpkins everyone
knows and loves to carve into
jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween. The
kids followed along by drawing
pictures of each life stage on their
worksheets, and numbered them
one through six in order.
Wallace was joined at the
head of the class by fellow HHS
students Logan Sinor, Garrett Hills,
Maleena Moore, Jayda Hoston,
Ellen Jakobsen and Diana Egerer
as part of the high school’s annual
fall Agriculture in the Classroom
tour. More than 50 high-schoolers
participated in the event, visiting
every elementary school in the
Hermiston School District and
giving agriculture-themed lessons
to 946 first, second and third grade
Once the kids finished coloring
their perfect pumpkins, Wallace and
the rest of the group helped to serve
a tasty snack of graham crackers
topped with pumpkin pie filling.
“This is something I look
forward to each season we do it,”
Wallace said. “It’s fun to see their
faces light up when we walk in.”
As a statewide nonprofit orga-
nization, Oregon Agriculture in
“The world
wouldn’t survive
without agriculture,
and it’s important
for kids to know
how much work it
is and how much
we need it.”
— Logan Sinor,
sophomore at HHS
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Hermiston sophomore Jayde Hoston, left, and junior Maleena Moore, second from right, help
third-graders Maddexx Caballero, Fadhili Ibochwa and Jacob Linkel make pumpkin pie in a bag on
Tuesday at West Park Elementary School in Hermiston.
the Classroom strives to educate
students on the importance of
farming and natural resources by
providing lesson plans to K-12
teachers that highlight agriculture,
while also promoting skills in math,
science, history and nutrition.
Jessica Jansen, the group’s
executive director, said they are
supported through grants and
donations from the agricultural
community. Their mission is to
work with local partners — such
as Hermiston FFA — to improve
agricultural literacy, provide a basic
understanding of farming and help
to bridge the urban-rural divide.
“It’s a small portion of Orego-
nians involved in the actual
growing and producing of food and
other agricultural products,” Jansen
said. “We want students to think of
agriculture as an opportunity for
them in the future.”
Last school year, Oregon Agri-
culture in the Classroom reached
more than 190,000 students in
all 36 counties across the state,
according to stats provided by the
organization. Jansen said she is
always impressed with the level of
involvement in Hermiston.
“Hermiston does a fantastic job,
and they have an ability to reach
so many students with so many
elementary schools in the district,”
she said.
Brianna Smith, agriculture
teacher at HHS, developed Tues-
day’s pumpkin lesson through
tools provided by Agriculture in
the Classroom. She watched from
the back of the classroom with a
wide grin as her pupils took charge,
leading the discussion and calling
on kids to answer questions.
“It makes me so proud,” Smith
said. “I just get butterflies inside,
and I can’t stop smiling.”
Smith, who taught second
and third grade at Rocky Heights
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Hermiston sophomore Logan Sinor reads the book “How Many
Seeds in a Pumpkin?” to a class of third-graders on Tuesday at
West Park Elementary School in Hermiston.
Hermiston senior Ellen Jacobsen listens to third-grader Aleesia
Fairlay while helping teach a class Tuesday at West Park Elementary
School in Hermiston.
Elementary before moving to the
high school earlier this year, said
Agriculture in the Classroom
literacy programs are about
the only science some of these
younger students will receive as
teachers are constrained by other
required standards.
As for the high school kids,
Smith said they too gain valuable
educational skills and experience.
“I want them to walk away with
just the importance of teaching and
advocating for agriculture,” she
Smith said HHS will do an Agri-
culture in the Classroom tour this
spring as well for fourth-graders,
only this time it will be entirely up to
the high-schoolers to plan, prepare
and conduct their own lesson plans.
Sinor, a sophomore at HHS, was
quick to point out that Hermiston is
an agricultural community, and said
it is important for kids to understand
from an early age where their food
comes from and why farmers are so
“The world wouldn’t survive
without agriculture, and it’s
important for kids to know how
much work it is and how much we
need it,” Sinor said.
Hills, a fellow sophomore,
said Agriculture in the Classroom
allows kids to be creative, while
possibly planting a seed for the next
generation of agricultural leaders.
“Helping kids to learn about
agriculture, it could spark some
ideas in their head,” Hills said.
“They could help feed the world,
and make the world a better place.”
Agriculture in the Classroom is
another way, too, to show kids that
modern agriculture is more than
just sows, cows and plows, Wallace
“Really, agriculture can branch
out to these students as well,” she
said. “Anyone can be involved in
Contact George Plaven at