BARTON COUNTY — Mandy Kern is the new programming specialist at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. Her official start was June 4. She replaces Jean Aycock, who recently accepted a position with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
Kern’s bachelor’s degree is in agricultural education, from Kansas State University. She also holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Purdue State College, Nebraska.
Most recently, she was a teacher in Madison, which is located south of Emporia. She taught high school agricultural and science classes at Olpe High School and Hartford High School. She has been a teacher for 10 years.
“My background is in agricultural education, but I’ve always enjoyed more of the environmental education side of that,” she said. “This allows me to teach all of the things I love teaching the most.”
She will be working primarily with middle school, high school and college students. She will also be around to assist Pam Martin with lower grade programming as needed. She is currently undergoing the Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor application process so she can work with scout groups. She will also work closely with 4-H groups.
They want to focus more on the science with older kids.
“We want to work with the scientific method in order to learn how to solve problems,” she said.
Kern is originally from McPherson, and her husband Joseph grew up in Chase. The family has returned to rural Chase, and have purchased his grandfather’s house in order to be closer to family. Their home is located along the original Santa Fe Trail, where wheel ruts can still be seen in the soils, she said.
They have three children, Jonas, 10; Russell, 9; and Maggie, 5. They will attend school in Ellinwood, and plan to transfer their 4-H club membership to the Ellinwood Energizers in the fall.
The family is very active in 4-H, and enjoys having fun outdoors.
In Madison they did market farming, using high tunnels and greenhouses. They grew 300 tomatoes and peppers, along with other vegetables, through community supported agriculture (CSA) contracts.
“I don’t know if the kids really want us to take that back up again, but we’ll see,” she said. “It’s a lot of work.”
For now the family is getting settled in their new home.
Linking tech with environmental science
For many years, Kern has been involved with the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education teacher training programs which are geared toward learning how to “teach the teachers” how to use environmental education curricula in the classroom. Last week, she took part in the a National Science Foundation grant project through the association. The NSF is developing a program to teach computer science with an agricultural application, she said. Kern spent a week learning to code and do programming, finding ways to utilize those programs at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
“I now have technology kits and a little bit of knowledge, and can teach some programming and do some things with that,” she said. She’s looking forward to working with older students on longer term experiments and studies that may involve multiple visits.