Somonauk ag program earns national certification

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

The Somonauk School District agriculture program has received national certification from the CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) Institute. Toni Saso, agriculture education instructor at Somonauk High School, attended training for the Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources course, July 21 to Aug. 1 in Mankato, Minn.

The CASE Institute provides the foundation component of teacher preparation necessary to ensure an instructor’s readiness to deliver CASE curricula to students. The institute also provides a collaborative setting where teachers are immersed in content-specific, project-based instruction. The AFNR course is the base for additional courses in animal science, plant science, biotechnology, natural resources and food science.

For Saso, the institute was funded by the NAAE/Mosaic Corporation scholarship. This scholarship was awarded in the spring from the National Association of Agriculture Educators, and paid for the training. In addition, a grant from Corn Belt Energy was secured to purchase laboratory equipment needed to teach the curriculum.

While at the Institute, Saso was in training for eight hours each day with additional evening homework assignments. Nineteen instructors from across the country attended the CASE Institute in Minnesota. In addition to the 12-day class, instructors visited a 5,000-cow Jersey dairy operation, a vineyard and retail sales location, a 2.5-acre FFA/school garden, and an exotic animal zoo owned and operated by a former Minnesota FFA member.

“I am excited to implement this curriculum in the fall, replacing the current first year ag course with this highly science project, problem- and activity-oriented curriculum,” Saso said in a news release. “This CASE curriculum is current for agriculture and is cross-walked with all national science, math and English standards. Somonauk needed a more rigorous course to replace the freshman-level course, and this is it.”

Somonauk High School will be one of only four high schools in Illinois offering this Intro to ANFR curriculum this year.

As fall approaches, Saso will work with administration to secure more funding for this project. Somonauk has been named a finalist in the Monsanto Farmers Grow Rural Education grant, and also intends to use additional grant sources to provide a higher rigor, higher relevant coursework for students. Currently 56 Somonauk, Leland and Sandwich students are enrolled for the Intro to AFNR course for the 2013-14 school year.

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