By: Avery Davidson and Neil Melançon
The hunt is on for bugs at L. Leo Judice Elementary School, part of what is now an award-winning curriculum.
Paula Guidry, a fifth-grade science teacher at the school has been named the 2018 Louisiana Farm Bureau Ag in The Classroom Teacher of the Year for her ability to tie academic lessons to agriculture. On this day, her students are looking for a cucumber beetle in the school’s outdoor garden, which becomes a fun lesson in entomology.
"You’re going to research a pest and you’re going to make a wanted poster,” she tells the class.
It’s all part of her plan to bring real learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
“They can learn about the pests in the garden,” Guidry said. "They can learn about the different vegetables and the fruits and where they come from. So, we connect it not only to reading but to social studies and, of course, science. Science is an easy fit with the garden and also with math. You know, you’re talking about spacing and depth, so a lot of measurement is included, so it adds to that, as well.”
L. Leo Judice Elementary’s principal Mia Lemaire is constantly amazed at the students’ progress, but not at all surprised by Guidry’s award, as it’s not the first one.
"Paula Guidry is outstanding,” Lemaire said. "She is the teacher you would want your personal child to have for any subject area.
"Our theme here is environmental science and so with that, we do do grade level gardens,” Lemaire added. "Paula is the director of our program for environmental sciences. In fact she was named the school of choice director of the year. She’s received that title, as well."
Louisiana AITC Coordinator Lynda Danos agreed, saying the recognition for Guidry was an easy decision.
“Wow! I mean, really, I’m speechless,” Danos said. "It’s obvious the children love being out here and the outdoor classroom was just amazing that the school has a facility like that.”
Guidry herself was surprised at the award, but said she’s happy if it helps her students.
"Well, I was sort of shocked was the first response, because we basically feel we’re a team here,” Guidry said. "So, we all work together to make this program work and I know there are some fantastic things going on in the state and with teachers, just in our own parish here and throughout the state, so it was sort of shock and excitement, too, at the same time.”
Danos said the gardening project at the school was a picture-perfect example of the goal of AITC.
"Education has evolved and that’s what we need to be doing more of—getting students out and doing things,’ Danos said. "Getting their hands dirty, digging potatoes. Experiencing life.”
Guidry will get to experience some good life soon. As part of her award, she will be recognized at the upcoming Louisiana Farm Bureau Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 21 in New Orleans, La. Her prize pack includes a new iPad, as well as a free trip to the national AITC conference in Portland, ME.
To be part of Ag in the Classroom or for more information, you can visit aitcla.org.