John Thomas recently returned from the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Ca. with new ideas for his work as a teacher in Tolles’ Ag Bioscience program.
Established in 1974, Tolles is a career and technical school providing a launch pad for both high school students and adult learners located south of Plain City. Tolles serves Dublin, Fairbanks, Hilliard, Jonathan Alder, London, Madison-Plains and Jefferson Local school districts. Tolles’ 223,000 square-foot facility boasts instructional and functional labs, academic classrooms, an auditorium and conference center, as well as a fully-operational restaurant, hair and nail salon and spa, small animal care facility, automotive repair and maintenance center, digital media lab, community preschool, medical and fire labs, and many other career spaces.
Thomas teaches Environmental and Advanced Life science classes at Tolles main campus, and teaches Tolles’ satellite Ag Bioscience program housed at Fairbanks Middle School. This program is one of many for students who have an interest in agriculture and environmental science including Outdoor Careers program on Tolles’ main campus and FFA at Fairbanks High School.
Thomas was invited to attend Commodity Classic through GrowNextGen, an organization that has created a network of educators who do work with soybeans and the Ohio Soybean Council. This event gave science teachers a chance to learn from experts in the field including researchers and farmers.
While at the Commodity Classic, Thomas followed Monsanto’s “Journey of the Seed,” and learned how favorable traits can be added through biotechnology to produce a more successful crop. Monsanto provided each teacher with both GMO and non-GMO soybeans, and Thomas plans to use these during a classroom lesson on GMOs.
“The area of biotechnology is exploding right now. When we think about tech industries, we usually think about digital technologies such as coding or robotics,” Thomas said. “However, advancements in biotechnology are happening just as fast. With the advent of CRISPR (a family of DNA sequences in bacteria that has been used to modify genomes) there are many start up biotechnology industries that are coming out of nowhere. We now have the ability to quickly modify genes in a way that is similar to computer coding.”
In addition to acquiring valuable lessons to bring back to the classroom, Thomas was also exposed to new technological advancements in the field of biotechnology and agriculture. Additionally, Thomas had the opportunity to meet and network with teachers from California and across the country with whom he shared curriculum connections and best practices, further deepening his content knowledge to bring to his students.
“The goal of my program is to open student’s eyes to the world of sustainable agriculture,” Thomas said. “We are trying to produce food using best management practices. I love working alongside my students to solve real-world problems.”
GrowNextGen has reached more than 20,000 teachers and 500,000 students in Ohio and beyond. The program brings agriculture science to the classroom, joining industry and teachers by providing real-world educational tools to engage the next generation workforce. Backed by funding from the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio soybean farmers, GrowNextGen helps expose students to different career fields in a thriving industry.