There’s something new happening behind the door to room 314 at Mount Si High School. A brand new course is being taught by Amy Graham, who brings her passion for animals, the outdoors and science to the kids who enter her classroom each day.
Amy, a North Bend resident, brought 25 years of experience in Agriculture Business back home, to the kids in her own community. She said she felt a calling to teach, and so last year went back to school and got her CTE teaching certificate while subbing at Tahoma High School.
Three weeks before the school year started, the position opened at Mount Si – and just like that, Amy had her dream job.
With all the emphasis on STEM these days, the new course Amy is teaching may not get the attention it deserves, but in the 15 minutes I observed, I learned a lot.
You might think of science as strictly equations, beakers, or computer coding, but it stretches deeper and trickles into everything, including agriculture and horticulture, which have deep roots here in the Snoqualmie Valley.
The kids were learning about cows when I arrived – where my limited knowledge extends to dairy and beef, but this course takes the kids deeper. Amy spends about a week on different animals, including their cultural, geographical, historical and economical roles.
Back to the cows. Milk and beef cows are part of a massive industry that feeds America and and so, have to be raised correctly. What did I learn? Maybe a little bit more than I was prepared for, but I can now tell you what part of a cow produces a t-bone steak and the difference between angus and non-angus ground beef. The homework assigned was hand on, too. By Friday each student had to go to the store and identify 10 cuts of beef and what part of Angus cow they are from.
Not only do these kids learn the ins and outs of different animals, but they raise them and present them at local fairs. They also learn to judge.
One of the first things Amy did when starting at Mount Si this year was reinstate the school’s FFA – Future Farmers of America – chapter. She explained that FFA does much more than most people know. It’s prepares kids for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. It requires active participation and hands on learning.
Mount Si’s FFA made quite an impression recently at the Junior Livestock Show at the Puyallup Spring Fair- and in its very first year.
- Lydia Hamerly, Sophomore: Reserve Grand Champion FFA Lamb, Grand Champion Novice Showman, 8th place in State for Individual Livestock Judging, 1st place for Lamb Record Book
- Megan Weber, Senior: 4th place in Novice Showmanship, Blue ribbon lamb, 2nd place Lamb Record Book
- Mount Si Livestock Judging Team – Lydia Hamerly, Megan Weber, Greg Grahan, Becca Glover, Elena Rourke: 4th place in State
- Mount Si: 1st place – Herdsmanship for Lambs.
- Lily Hutchison: Blue ribbon (1st Place), Showmanship and Best of Variety for her Mini Rex rabbit.
Amy said the award she is most proud of was the Team Judging Award – the yellow ribbon now proudly displayed on her white board – because it represents the students’ understanding of the animals and everything that goes into showcasing and judging, along with the ability to work together.
MSHS FFA has also participated in several Career and Leadership Development events that gave kids a chance to try different competitions like agriculture dairy product judging, horse judging, agriculture mechanics judging and landscape judging. Students also gave their best in Prepared Public Speaking competition.
Amy’s passion doesn’t stop at animals, though. She also teaches horticulture, which involves students nurturing all the plants that will be for sale at the annual Mount Si Spring Plant Sale. The school’s greenhouse is jam packed with hanging baskets, house plants, annuals, perennials, veggie starts and succulents.
The sale happens May 3rd – 5th from 8am to 5PM in the greenhouse on the Mount Si Campus. The hanging baskets – which look professional – come at reasonable prices of $25 or $35 and support the Mount Si FFA chapter.
Amy commented, “This is my dream job. I love being able to share my passion for Agriculture with students in my local.community. It surrounds us daily and is a vital part of our lives. FFA allows kids to participate in many different activities that help to develop leadership skills as well as allowing them to explore potential careers. Watching a student bring an animal into the show ring for the first time, show that animal and their knowledge to the judge, and walk out with a ribbon is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. These kids are learning responsibility, self confidence, discipline, dedication, and determination – skills that are sometimes overlooked.”