Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom (OAITC) has many outstanding teachers using OAITC lessons in their classrooms. We are pleased and proud to spotlight some of them monthly.
Featured Teacher: Michael Lewis, Tulsa, Union
You may have seen Michael Lewis on TV. In his spare time, when he is not teaching 7th grade science at Tulsa's Union High School, he is an actor, sometimes drifting across the screen as an extra in Sonic commericals, among others.
Mr. Lewis has taught at Union for four years. Before that he taught business, technology and video at Skiatook. He has taught a total 11 years with an alternative certification in business, technology and career technology. He has a BA in theology from Randle College in Moore and a masters in business management from the University of Phoenix.
STEM is the topic Mr. Lewis most enjoys teaching. He conducts STEM workshops and has done STEM projects through NASA for 12 years.
Mr. Lewis grew up in Skiatook, a suburb of Tulsa. He has no background in agriculture, though he lives in the country now, on land near Owasso.
His students are very urban and don’t often have the opportunity at home to explore, he said. Some of his students can’t even play outside because it isn’t safe. At the other end of the spectrum are students who don’t have time to play because they are involved in so many activities. "We have a very diverse student body," he said.
He has been involved with OAITC for the past 2-3 years. He loves the science aspect of agriculture, in particular the agricultural connection to his work with NASA. He toured the Noble Foundation with other OAITC teachers back in January and was pleased to hear the scientists there discuss their research in connection with space travel, developing plants that will grow in space, in a self-sustaining environment.
OAITC helps keep his teaching local. Last year his students made their own augers while learning about the Archimedes screw and simple machines. Mr. Lewis pilot-tested a lesson about combines for National Ag in the Classroom that examined the use of the Archimedes screw.
Ag in the Classroom provides real life applications of science, he said.
"STEM is all about problem solving and looking at problems from different points of view." This is something farmers have to do every day, he said. "They don’t always have time to haul equipment into town to have it fixed when it breaks down in the field. They need to figure out how to fix things on the spot."
Mr. Lewis likes OAITC because of the abundance of lessons and resources available on the website. He finds that he can adjust even lower level lessons for use in his high school classroom. And he appreciates that the lessons are aligned with the Oklahoma Academic Standards.
Michael has used "DNA: Blueprint for Life," the strawberry dna lesson, and his favorite lesson is "The Chemistry of Butter"—"a great STEM lesson," he said
"It’s hands on, and my students eat it up—so to speak," he laughs.
"My students are surprised to find that everything is related to agriculture, not just food, but other products we use every day—the leather in car seats, plastics, clothing, medicine, and more."