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February 14 , 2007
DH 07 JH23
Contact: Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
(310) 243-2740/2001

Teacher Alumna Plants Seeds of Consciousness and Harmony

Carson, CA - Dianne Swanson (Class of ’02, Teaching Credential; ’04, M.A., Teacher Education/Curriculum) has been named Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2007 by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Swanson is recognized for her ability to integrate agriculture into the urban community of Long Beach, where students typically would not be aware of where their food comes from, or how to grow it.

“Having grown up in such close proximity to some of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world, I cannot believe how uninformed I was as a child about this enormously important industry,” says the Long Beach native. “I am determined to show my students that ‘city kids’ do not have to be limited in their education or agricultural experiences.”

In her eight-year career, Swanson, a second grade teacher at Los Cerritos Elementary School in Long Beach has been able to tie teaching subjects to the garden and is able to meet state content standards through multiple agriculture-related lessons and activities. Her students practice comprehension skills using agriculturally related materials. Writing applications and language arts activities as well as written and oral language conventions are practiced with writing garden
and nature-themed poetry, stories, and journal entries. Measuring, analyzing data, and identifying patterns, all math standards, are easily taught in the garden. Science standards ranging from life science to techniques of investigation and experimentation are taught in the Urban Farmyard, the school’s garden.

The facility includes 22 raised beds for vegetables, flowers, herbs, California native plants, and a composting area. Outdoor classroom seating, a tool barn, and a coop housing hens, rabbits, ducks, a rooster and a guinea fowl. Swanson and many of her fellow teachers hold their classes in the garden to illustrate examples of science, math, history, social studies and art.

“It delights and astounds me when parents wonder how I got their child to eat green beans, turnips, kale or peas,” enthuses Swanson. “I am thrilled when students tell me they have planted seeds and started a garden at home or when they tell other kids not to hurt the bugs and the worms.”

As part of her award, Swanson will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in June in New Orleans, where she will compete in the USDA's Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Awards Program.

Swanson believes that a garden is a metaphor for life, and that everyone has a job in the garden, no matter how small they may be.

“As I get older, I learn that everything in life is connected, and what happens to one, happens to us all,” she says. “By using agriculture to engage students in the trials and joys of caring for the earth and its inhabitants, I believe I’ve shown that growing and enjoying food is a universal commonality that can bring all of us together in a peaceful and harmonious way.”

Dominguez Hills - University Communications & Public Affairs
1000 E. Victoria Street
Carson, CA 90747













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Last updated February 14, 2007, 3:27 p.m.
by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore