Erin Small teaches new agriculture program at FMS

By Madeline Otten


Fluvanna County Middle School students can now immerse themselves and explore science as it relates to agriculture in the school’s newest addition with Erin Small. Her classroom is in the old carpentry shop when the building served as the high school. 

Small has always wanted to become an educator of some sort, and it runs in the family. Her father, David Small, teaches television production and student government at the high school and her mom, Stephanie Kelley, teaches history at the high school. 

“I have always loved mentoring and teaching children. My first teaching opportunities stemmed from my involvement in Fluvanna 4-H in early high school,” said Small. “Since I was a little girl, I loved anything and everything to do with animals, gardening, and just being outside. I rode horses at my friend’s farm and began showing livestock through Albemarle 4-H in middle school. From there, the passion only grew.”

Small studied fish conservation at Virginia Tech through the College Natural Resources and Environment with the intention of becoming an extension agent who would focus on aquaculture and fish habitat research. However, halfway through her college career, she changed her major to the College of Agriculture Sciences to become an agriculture teacher. 

This past May, Small accepted her position and prepared her curriculum over the summer for her 85 students. She spoke with several successful middle school agriculture teachers from around the state, including the areas of Roanoke, Winchester, and Harrisonburg to develop a firmer understanding of how to teach state competencies in a practical way for the middle school age group. She also gained insight after speaking to her advisor and department head at Virginia Tech. 

Grades 5-7 can take Small’s agriculture class and explore science as it related to agriculture and develop and understanding of human relations, communication, the importance of agriculture to the economy, and key scientific terms related to the field of agriculture. 

In the morning Small checks on the class chicks, feeds the fish, and then looks over the lesson plan outline she has for the week. 

“I also check the weather and see what objective fits best for the day,” said Small. “If it is a nice day outside, I try to adjust my lesson to include some time outdoors. The kids seem to learn best when they are outside.”

While starting the program was the most challenging, Small loves that she had the opportunity to serve as Fluvanna’s first FFA president — when the program was re-established in 2013 with Russell Jennings — and now bring her passion for agriculture home again. 

Small’s goals involve her students so they can develop an understanding of what agriculture is as a whole, what it looks like in the Fluvanna community, and how it affects their lives. She also hopes students will develop a personal passion for agriculture and pursue educational development opportunities outside of class through Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4-H, or internships. 

“Students can look forward to caring for and handling animals, gardening, guest speakers, and field trips to local farms! No two days are the same!

In her free time, Small loves spending time with her friends and family. She also enjoys kayaking, gardening, fishing, hiking, baking, and playing guitar. And during football season, she can be found cheering on the Hokies.

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