In his second year teaching and second year at Schuyler Central High School, Agricultural Science Teacher Hal Moomey has wasted no time in finding new topics to impart on his students.
Recently, he completed a CASE Institute course on food science.
“I really just wanted to give students hands-on learning and wanted to give them something different,” Moomey said. “There’s not really something like that in the ag stuff.”
Moomey noted that there are plant science and animal science pathways in the ag programs at SCHS, but nothing for food science. When he saw it as an option for a CASE program, he jumped on it.
CASE stands for Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education.
“I wanted to introduce something that might be relevant to students who might not think ag is their thing. In reality, everyone eats food today. Ag is everyone’s thing,” Moomey said.
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Monty Larsen, lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication department, said CASE is a program for teachers who want to go beyond just teaching their subject and want to teach in a more hands-on way.
“They started with some homework before things even got rolling. They went through training to become certified in food safety and handling,” Larsen said. “The curriculum is designed to take them through the school year.”
“Homework,” as Larsen put it, is part of the curriculum Moomey will use through the school year. Everything is planned out to a T, to the point that some experiments will be referenced days before they occur in order to prepare adequately, such as bacteria-growth monitoring.
The teachers, Larsen said, become students of their own at the institute so they can see how these experiments will play out in the classroom and be able to personalize it more to their class when they teach it.
“Teachers are students in CASE. They’re learning by doing and they can have an idea where students may struggle with concepts. They have a handbook. They keep notes if say it’s a higher level skill that’s going to take more focus and may not fit into one 50-minute session,” Larsen said.
Moomey was able to attend the course with assistance from a grant and a scholarship from the CASE Institute itself and the Soybean Board, respectively. The Soybean Board’s scholarship, he said, will require some integration of soy-based topics into the curriculum. Soybeans, he said, are an interesting dietary topic, so he’s excited to see how students relate to it.
“I think it brings in a little uniqueness to it. One thing that made me think about it is my wife is gluten-free. She can’t have products with gluten. Some students may be gluten-free. Soybeans bring unique ideas for different diets that can and can’t have different things,” Moomey said.
Moomey said another source for inspiration in choosing this course was that his topic of agricultural science didn’t have a space for those interested in food science and he thought it was time for that to change.
“I teach agricultural education. It’s very broad. Now I teach food science, animal science, agricultural business, ag leadership, intro to ag, welding. There’s a different class every period to expose students to different types of ag,” Moomey said. “That was one of the main reasons I wanted to do food science was that we have different pathways in the ag fields. Now we’re adding a pathway for the food science curriculum.”
Moomey will keep his certification, Larsen said, no matter where he goes, but if Moomey leaves SCHS, the school cannot use the curriculum any more after one year. The CASE institute puts this measure in place to ensure the curriculum is taught by someone who has experienced it as a student.
“The thought process is if we don’t teach teacher how to accurately use it, it’s like giving a 5-year-old the keys to the car because they want to drive it,” Larsen said. “They need to understand what students are maybe feeling through certain labs and teachers have that side of understanding.”