A local Ridgetown District High School teacher has been recognized for his efforts in science and horticulture.
Bryan Ferguson, a teacher at Ridgetown District High School, was recently awarded the 2021 teacher recognition award. The award is presented each year in partnership with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. The award is presented each year in partnership with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.
Agriculture can struggle to have its message heard, but increased online engagement has helped spread agriculture’s message further than ever before.
AgScape, the Ontario provider of agriculture information to students and teachers, was forced to pivot from its usual in-class sessions to more online learning. That meant that it was able to deliver 409,472 educational experiences in 2020.
Mercedes Unwin, program and resource manager at AgScape, said 15,000 digital educational resources were distributed, with 310,000 students reached. The organization’s Growing Careers videos were viewed 15,000 times, and virtual farm and food tours were viewed 60,000 times.
Ferguson has been using resources provided by AgSpace for 15 years to his classroom’s advantage, teaching in a more urban setting in Sarnia and now in Ridgetown. He uses the resource not only in the High Skills Major in Agriculture class but also in a green industries class and younger science classes.
Unwin says Ferguson took students to a variety of farms and events, including beef, dairy and goat farms. He also took them to crop events, and his students learned about pesticide spray courses.
“The award is a great honour as both Agscape and Canada’s outdoor farm show have and continue to be great learning opportunities and resources for our students,” said Ferguson. I am pleased they recognize my efforts to deliver a meaningful agricultural curriculum to a wide variety of learners.”
According to Ferguson, real, deep learning occurs when students encounter new experiences and situations.
“Allowing them to get ‘outside’ the building and visit real-world operations and facilities are always rewarding, both for me and, from what I have witnessed over many years, also for them,” said Ferguson.
The horticulture program is one of our most popular elective courses, and students genuinely enjoy doing the work in Ferguson’s class, said Bernadette Bruette, the school’s principal.
“RDHS is truly fortunate to have teachers like Mr. Ferguson whose care and commitment to students is evident in everything they do,” said Bruette. “He offers every possible opportunity for students to be successful and guides them to develop skills that will last a lifetime.”
The science and horticultural teacher said the contextualized educational experience benefits all learning styles and ages, even bridging the rural and urban divide.
“Watching the student’s faces and general curiosity as they tour local farms and visit unusual events related to the very broad agricultural and horticultural field is reassuring. There is simply nothing else quite like it in my experience as an educator,” added Ferguson.
The always engaged and passionate Ferguson said he hopes his students take the lessons learned and realize the post-secondary and employment options and opportunities open to them in the wider ‘Green Industries’ is enormous.
“The first lesson I deliver in my classes is ‘don’t be afraid to try it’, usually in relation to planting something,” said Ferguson. “Growing plants is easy, and everyone should do it. It’s not rocket science, but requires hard work, planning, dedication and commitment.”
Ferguson said he would continue to use Agscape’s resources, visiting local farm shows and touring local farms and enterprises in the future.
“I will apply all of these resources not only in my Green Industries classes but also across multiple other subjects: science, biology, environmental science, etc.,” said Ferguson.
According to Bruette, students will still be able to enjoy one of their favourite classes and teachers this summer.
“Mr. Ferguson is teaching the summer horticulture program, which draws students from across Kent County, and a similar program will run in Lambton County,” added Bruette.
Students will earn a grade 10, 11, or 12 horticulture credit towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). Students receive hands-on experience working both in the greenhouse and outdoors on RDHS school grounds, following all health and safety and COVID-19 protocols. The course runs from July 5 to August 13, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily (except for August 2 – Civic Holiday). Interested students should get in touch with their school’s Guidance Counselor prior to the registration deadline of June 18.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News