Friday, October 22, 2010

Creating a Positive Online Footprint with State Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers

By Robert S. Jackson, Ed.S., Assistant Principal for Instruction\
     Kelly Payne, Social Studies Teacher

With the emphasis on emerging technologies and the national focus on renewable energies, there is a great potential for increasing student engagement in the classroom when you are able to interact with some of the brightest minds in the business. Schools can transform their models of teaching and learning to reflect broad changes in information interactivity and address the new intellectual demands and opportunities in a 21st century learning environment. President Obama recently stated "the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -– but only if we accelerate that transition." Dutch Fork High is accelerating that transition for students...

Education by and large has been a closed type of profession. The refrain we hear all too often is, “just let me close my doors and teach.” Without sharing, there is no education. The “It Kids” Current Issues class is making new connections and working to increase networks to enhance student learning. This is a cutting edge approach to learning than has traditionally prevailed, and still prevails, in schools. It has the potential to expand an unlimited amount of learning opportunities for our students.

Recently, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers visited Dutch Fork High School to share with our students some of the current issues that are happening in our state as it pertains to Agriculture. Through his message, our students gained valuable insight into the ebb and flow of the Department of Agriculture along with new and emerging topics being discussed. Some of the questions that were asked by students are as follows:

1.      Even though agriculture is an important segment of South Carolina’s economy, why do we have a separate state agency with a statewide elected official overseeing this segment?  What other segment of our economy gets its own agency and constitutional officer?
2.      What influence has agriculture had on South Carolina’s immigration influx?  How involved is your agency in protecting migrant farm workers?
3.      The Department of Agriculture places inspection stickers on gas pumps all over the state.  Isn’t there a more logical agency to inspect and test gas pumps?
4.      What are the long-term health risks of eating genetically engineered food?
5.      What’s the status of the new Farmers Market?  How much will it cost to relocate the old market and how much have we spent so far?  How will the State ever recover those costs and how long will it take to recover them?
6.      Given that we live in a world where economic borders are less important than they’ve ever been, what’s the best reason to promote the Certified South Carolina Grown program?
7.      Why do state laws say that the Commissioner of Agriculture needs to have “a competent knowledge of manufacturing …, commerce, chemistry and publicity” {Section 46-3-30} yet they also say that the Commissioner doesn’t have the right to do scientific or educational work in agriculture {Section 46-3-80}?  What sense does that make?
8.      If we haven’t grown up farming, what sort of career opportunities exist in agriculture today?
9.      How did it happen that our Commissioner of Agriculture went to USC rather than Clemson?
10.  We’ve seen that more state budget cuts are on the way.  What effect are state budget cuts having on your agency?  Where do you plan to cut next?
11.  The state’s spending transparency website indicates that the Department of Agriculture spends quite a bit on advertising.  What are you advertising?
12.  Where can we expect to see growth in South Carolina’s agricultural economy and what’s the future for family farms (as opposed to corporate-farming operations)?

We remain sincerely appreciative of the timed dedicated to Dutch Fork High by Commissioner Weathers. Our students will be able to interact with the curriculum on a higher level of cognition because of this experience. We plan to continue to invite the brightest minds across all emerging industries to come and share with our students the essential skills needed in order to become college and career ready.

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