Brooke Swindler: Creating Innovative Experiences Through Classroom Curriculum

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Brooke Swindler’s goal is to make learning applicable and fun for agriculture students at the Carrollton Career Center at Carrollton High School in #Agri-Ready Designated Carroll County. She utilizes her wisdom as a veteran agriculture instructor to develop curriculum and innovative lessons for her students. In 2023, she was honored with the Missouri National Association of Agriculture Educators (NAAE) Ideas Unlimited Award for a lesson she designed entitled “As Seen On TV.” Brooke’s willingness to let students ‘do to learn’ and her desire to prepare students with skills for real life scenarios help her to create more than just assignments, she creates classroom experiences her students will never forget.

“I love writing and developing curriculum. I believe that the foundation of everything is a solid lesson that can get the kids excited to learn,” Brooke said. 

She translates her belief that students should be prepared to make informed choices in global agriculture systems into her daily curriculum. Her inspiration to design the “As Seen On TV” lesson stemmed from noticing the prominence of social media influencers in our current culture. “If everyone is going to base their purchases on what other people say, our students need to learn not just how to be educated consumers but also how to share their experiences with others,” Brooke said.

Brooke utilized the lesson in her Food Science class. Each student got to choose a product to examine and determine through quality experimental research if it was worth purchasing. Items that students chose from included a Rapid Rice Cooker, Bacon Wave, Silicone Egg Boil and several others. Many items were donated by fellow teachers, local thrift stores, or pulled from Brooke’s own cabinets. The students performed their experiments in the Food Science Lab in the agriculture department at Carrollton Career Center where they captured photos and videos of their experiences. 

“Performing their experiments at school provided opportunity for some great conversations,” Brooke shared. “For instance, one of the first things discovered was that not all the products looked like the picture advertised on the box! And not all the products worked as advertised.” 

The next phase of the lesson taught students about the prevalence and value of utilizing the internet and social media for product marketing. Each student created a blog or vlog about their product to share their results, tips, and opinions with consumers. 

“My students really enjoyed the lesson because they got to have their own opinion. There were no right answers. My goal was for them to creatively articulate their findings and opinions. The connection to social media really engaged them because it is something that they choose to use daily and that they will use in future agriculture careers,” Brooke said. “The ‘As Seen On TV’ lesson works because it encompasses scientific research, writing, and verbal communication skills. It can be adapted to horticulture, animal science, or agriculture mechanics products.”

Brooke classroom-tested her lesson twice before she submitted it to the NAAE Ideas Unlimited competition which recognizes teachers for developing and sharing innovative ideas. Brooke’s lesson was chosen as the Missouri winner in 2023 and she was awarded the opportunity to present her lesson to a six-state regional conference. “The best thing about getting to present my lesson at the regional conference was getting feedback from other teachers to help make my lesson better. I brought home new lesson ideas to try because I am always on the hunt for the next fun and engaging thing we can do in class,” Brooke said.

“I love teaching agriculture and I love teaching in Carrollton,” Brooke shared. Brooke has been an agriculture instructor for 20 years. Since beginning her tenure at Carrollton 18 years ago, she has seen the agriculture department grow from 40 students to 120 students. Today, the program boasts two instructors and provides many different learning opportunities for students from building projects for the community in the shop to agriculture research projects to career development events and more. 

Brooke grew up on a farm in northeast Missouri. Her husband is a District Manager for MFA, Incorporated. They have two sons, ages 14 and 9, that are active in 4-H showing goats during the summer. Throughout her career, Brooke has watched many students grow and mature as individuals and citizens. She is excited to see her own kids grow through the leadership opportunities of agriculture education. Brooke is a member of the Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association and Missouri Farmer Bureau, both members of Missouri Farmers Care.