September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
This creates an accurate picture of how two past Minnesota Princess Kays of the Milky Way and one Princess Kay Finalist are using their dairy background to keep their classrooms fresh, interesting and fun. They intersperse their knowledge of dairy nutrition and caring for land and animals into their lesson plans. Think about the impact on students of a Butterhead sculpture brought into the classroom, making homemade ice cream and butter, having first-hand animal care explained, and visiting a dairy farm as these activities are taking place.
Each of these women pull teaching ideas from their experiences and training from their dairy farm backgrounds and the time they spent representing Minnesota dairy farmers while wearing a crown. They educate students and tell their personal story of dairy production, while weaving in messages about food handling and the nutritive value of dairy foods included in a healthy diet.
Ann (Miron) Tauzell grew up on a dairy farm near Forest Lake, Minn., served as Princess Kay in 2007, and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2010 with an agricultural education degree. She taught ninth through twelfth graders in Andover for one year, and now is teaching eighth and ninth graders Agri-Science and Exploring Agriculture classes in Forest Lake Public Schools, and also teaches alternative learning students.
Tauzell likes to help her students make connections to all of the opportunities in agriculture by teaching them about the process of food moving from the farm to the food processing operations to the grocery store. It broadens their knowledge of career paths they might want to pursue along the way she said.
Tina (Rettmann) Hoff was the 51st Princess Kay and grew up on a dairy farm near Buffalo Lake, Minn. She taught kindergarten at Franklin Elementary School in Mankato, Minn. and then moved to North Carolina where she teaches all-day, every-day kindergarten at the Fort Bragg Military Base to a transient, urban and diverse classroom of children who have never been in the country or on a farm.
Hoff said she uses a lot of photos of cows being milked and tractors in the field to explain dairy farming to her students by using them on the Smart Board in her classroom. She also taps into her From Farm to Food resources from when she was Princess Kay. At the end of the year, she will move with her husband to Germany, where she hopes to find another teaching position with young children.
Maria Siegle is in her fourth year of teaching in Le Sueur, Minn., having grown up on her parent's dairy farm in Cologne, Minn. She helped with the farm while obtaining an education degree at Gustavus Aldolphus College in St. Peter. She is now working on a Master's Degree in education.
Siegle was a Princess Kay finalist in 2009, and she said that over 200 children have seen her carved Butterhead from the state fair, which helps to introduce the dairy unit to her first-grade class. She also coordinates a field trip to a nearby dairy farm for all of the grade level team classrooms in her school where the kids get to watch a cow getting milked and feed a calf. The children also see the cheese-making process at the Le Sueur Cheese Plant, which is a large part of the community.
We asked these women to answer a few questions about how they springboard their Princess Kay experience into teaching.
What did you learn about students in your Princess role that helps you in the classroom today?
Tauzell: It exposed me to a lot of different resources. I use videos from the Midwest Dairy Association (MDA) Web site. They have teaching tools that are right there for you. Teachers are always looking for resources and how to connect things; especially a lot of young teachers who are developing curriculum.
Hoff: The biggest thing I learned is the lack of information that most students have. Most didn't correlate food they ate with animals on the farm. After I explain the process in our class, the kids want milk instead of juice for supper. The dairy princess part is very novel to kindergarten kids and gains their trust in what you tell them. I bring in different cheeses for them to try.
Siegle: Kids are generally curious and they want to know how things work, so I use my Butterhead as a stepping stone for education. It is the initial thing that sparks their curiosity and they want to know the rest of the story. I tell them it's a cool sculpture but guess what it's made from? They think butter comes from a store, so we talk about how it comes from happy, healthy cows and explain how we get the milk and I show them how to make butter from heavy cream. We shake it up and make butter. We take a half-day trip to the farm and have some hands-on experiences and millions of questions come after that. We have been fortunate each year to have Princess Kay come to our classroom. I also do supplemental lessons around the theme to tie in skills and that keeps them engaged.
How does your dairy background filter through to your teaching career?
Tauzell: I am always trying to provide examples for kids. I constantly try to bring information back to where I grew up and make connections for the students. I explain how we grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa in rotation to provide nutrients and save money. I try to help them understand a modern farm instead of the Old MacDonald farm. I try to supplement my students' lack of experience with my supplemental information. Most of my kids have an interest in animals and plants, but are not from a farm.
Hoff: Growing up we had international exchange students who lived and worked with us. The kids that I teach at Fort Bragg are from all over the world. I can talk about the differences in dairying elsewhere, but explain that cows are all making milk and we are turning the milk into yogurt and cheese. I also bring in pictures of me in the barn with calves and my dad and tell personal stories.
Siegle: The dairy background taught me a lot of responsibility for feeding and taking care on animals. I think this responsibility transfers to my teaching career. I am always looking for new cutting edge ways to prepare for my students. Dairy farmers are clever in finding things that work for animals and I look for new ways to meet student's needs and give them opportunities.
What things would dairy farmers be happy to hear are part of your curriculum?
Tauzell: In addition to dairy foods, we do livestock, learning about the different breeds, feeding and care, and I explain all of the different people who work with dairy farmers and their role. On the food side, we also look at where it all starts. They get a broad understanding of the industry and the steps along the way and hopefully some become interested in the opportunities in the industry. They are all consumers, and the more they know about the products the better, because some of them will take on leadership roles in our community. The more informed they are, the better decisions they will make.
Hoff: I talk about nutrition, animal care, such as how farmers feed, water and take care of their cows. I explain the different kinds of products they can try. I also use MDA Web site to print off sheets to send home for a continuation with parents.
Siegle: I emphasize the importance of the dairy industry as a part of our community. I take the first grade classrooms to the cheese plant and a dairy farm. It's a very positive way to promote. They already love the product and I am showing them the story behind all of that. Dairy farmers would be proud of the enthusiasm that princesses have, while weaving in the common thread of responsibility we learned on the farm. Not just the princess finalists, but all of the dairy princesses are bringing the message to students and are keeping the enthusiasm going. I am on the Carver County dairy princess committee and I have girls who work on dairies who want to have the opportunity to promote dairy.
How does what you know and support about dairy make a difference in what you teach?
Tauzell: I spend way more time on dairy and dairy foods. I have more resources for dairy. I like it and can be more creative. We do cheese tasting, and cheese and ice-cream making.
Hoff: I can get more in depth and personal. I can share my own stories, such as when our farm was hit by a tornado in 2003, and how we still needed to take care of and milk the cows.
Siegle: At lunch we talk about choosing healthy food. I tell them milk is very good for them because it helps keep bones and teeth healthy. Then we talk about other dairy products and they realize those things are pretty healthy. When I teach the dairy unit in May, I bring in samples of cottage cheese and yogurt for them to try.
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