“Spring is a time of renewal and the magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has undergone some exciting changes, including a new name. periodiCALS will provide the same news, updates and features you’ve come to expect, but will offer more in-depth content focused on a central theme, allowing us to showcase how the college’s breadth and depth of disciplines complement one another.
“In this issue, we explore if it’s possible to “win the food fight” against global hunger. The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. But with 1 billion hungry people on Earth today, how will we feed 9 billion? Find out how CALS faculty and students are developing solutions, starting in our own backyard. Also, meet some of our outstanding seniors and Olympian alumni, and read more about the latest happenings on and off campus, in the newly named and freshly redesigned college magazine, periodiCALS.”
Bringing Cornellians Closer to their Food – Features the USDA-funded Food Dignity Project, including Cornell participants Laurie Drinkwater and Scott Peters, tells of the work of the Cornell Small Farms Program with established and beginning farmers, and lauds the efforts of staff at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in Freeville to provide four acres of sweet corn and squash to dining halls as well as food for local pantries — 174,000 pounds in 2011.
Late blight lesion on tomato leaf. Click for larger view.
Late blight is a “community disease.” It is very destructive. (It led to the Irish Potato Famine.) It is highly contagious among plants. And the pathogen produces many spores easily dispersed by wind.
That’s why Meg McGrath, vegetable pathologist at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, created a series of brochures to teach gardeners how to prevent, identify and report the disease:
There’s no magic wand to fix our educational system. Instead, it will take exceptional teachers and approaches designed to meet the needs of all students.
That was the key message delivered by Michelle Shearer, 2011 National Teacher of the Year, in an address to more than 150 students and educators April 24. The evening program was part of a day-long series of events organized by Bryan Duff, lecturer in the Cornell Teacher Education program in the Department of Horticulture, that had Shearer working with educators and science faculty at Ithaca College in the morning and with Cornell education students in the afternoon.
“No one has a magic wand. We want a quick answer, but it’s just not that simple” she said. “The real issue is, how do we reach all students? In our country, there are pockets of excellence. And then there are pockets of great need – often separated by just a few miles. There are huge disparities in access and resources for students.”
As an Advanced-Placement Chemistry teacher, Shearer has stressed inclusion in her own classroom. She has reached out to students who have traditionally been underrepresented in scientific fields, including students with special needs and disabilities, minorities, and young women. “We’re starting to close the gender gap in some of our advanced science subjects,” she said. “We’re making progress. But the diversity of my class still does not match the diversity of my school. Our work is not finished until it does.”
This wider access does not require watering down the chemistry. Instead, teachers need to be more creative in providing academic supports to bring students up to high expectations. Social support is key, too. Teachers who know their students’ strengths and interests and make all students feel valued more effectively encourage the persistence needed to master challenging content.
That requires exceptionally talented teachers, Shearer points out. While a science major at Princeton University, she often felt pressure to “do more” than teach high school. Shearer challenged her Ithaca audiences to speak out against the biases that devalue teaching that pervade higher education and society. What could be more important and challenging than dedicating your professional life to promoting other people’s success, she asks?
“My pet peeve is when a teacher says ‘I’m just a teacher,’” said Shearer. “I suggest a simple change, and say ‘I am a teacher.’”
Shearer’s Teacher of the Year duties have taken her across the country and around the world, including China. “They’re having some of the same conversations,” she recalled. “They need great teachers too. They have a lot of people to educate.”
Teachers there didn’t want to talk about test scores, said Shearer. But they did have questions about how to encourage students to be creative thinkers and innovators. “They see the shift in the world and know that whoever can do that will have an advantage.”
Shearer also told about a new Chinese program that offers full scholarships to talented students in exchange for a 10-year commitment to teaching. “That’s quite a commitment,” she said. “We don’t have anything that matches or rivals that here.”
Co-sponsors of Shearer’s visit were the Cornell Teacher Education Program, the Ithaca College Department of Education, the Cornell Employment & Disability Institute and the Wells College Education Program.
“The situation is very serious and it depends on what crop mix a grower has,” said Terence Robinson (right), professor in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University. “If it is almost all apples, the damage is something where you can still produce a commercial crop and it might be down 20 to 40 percent. But if you have a lot of other species, like cherries, peaches and apricots, the damage might be a lot more.”
The Art of Horticulture (HORT 2010), taught by Marcia Eames-Sheavly (right), is one of 13 courses selected as University Courses for the 2012-2013 academic year. University courses are designed to teach students to think from the perspectives of multiple disciplines, across departments and among diverse fields of study. They foster intellectual discovery, promote debate and address complex issues.
The courses are also intended to instill “within students the distinctive character of Cornell: the intersection of diverse modes of academic pursuit and intellectual inquiry — specifically basic and applied knowledge,” said Laura Brown, vice provost for undergraduate education and the John Wendell Anderson Professor of English at Cornell. The initiative also gives students opportunities to engage in cross-disciplinary study “through examples of intersections, disjunctions or creative tensions among disciplines, model processes of intellectual discovery and critical thinking.”
Michelle Shearer, 2011 National Teacher of the Year, will speak on “Teaching, Learning and the Power of the Human Factor” on April 24 at 7 p.m. in 233 Plant Science Building on the Cornell University campus.
While the Urbana, Md., high school chemistry teacher honed her teaching skills in STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math), the lessons she shares inspire educators of all students, regardless of their age or gifts.
Shearer, who holds dual certification in chemistry and special education, believes there is an aspiring scientist in all students. She makes a concerted effort to reach out to students who have traditionally been underrepresented in scientific fields, including students with disabilities, minorities, and young women.
“Although chemistry can be an ‘intimidating’ subject that is often viewed as difficult for students to grasp, I have always embraced this simple idea: Chemistry is everywhere, and thus chemistry is for everyone. Everyone. Not just college-bound students, students of a particular ethnic group, or even students of a certain age,” says Shearer.
“I have successfully accommodated exceptional students with low vision, dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention deficit disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome into my AP chemistry classroom,” adds Shearer, who previously taught chemistry and mathematics at the Maryland School for the Deaf.
She tells all her students, “You are the chemist. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, take pride in the goggle lines on your forehead.”
The landscape outside the Computing & Communications Center on the Ag Quad got a major upgrade, thanks to students in Nina Bassuk‘s and Peter Trowbridge‘s course, Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920).
Earlier, the class tore down the pair of sod sofas created in the front of the building by Marcia Eames-Sheavly‘s Art of Horticulture class last fall. They spread the compost used as the foundations of the sofas to help improve the soil for the trees and shrubs they planted Tuesday.
This spring, the ‘Urban Eden’ class is also taking on a major project in the courtyard at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Because of the sheltered location and shifts in the USDA’s hardiness zones, that planting will feature many species more often found in landscapes farther south. More about that later.
Moving balled and burlapped trees into position for planting.
'Urban Eden' students move shrubs into place outside the CCC building on the Ag Quad.