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Professional Development Conference for Agriscience teachers in South Carolina - April 2022

by Paola Moreno-Roman

Day 1


I woke up early to fly to South Carolina. It was my first time visiting that state. I landed at Greenville and drove to Clemson, the drive was beautiful. So green. At the hotel, I met with Melissa Leventhal, our Social Media Specialist at Foldscope who joined this trip.

Catherine DiBenedetto, Associate Professor of Agricultural Education at Clemson University, welcomed us and introduced us to Rose Marie Somers, a Clemson university graduate student who also joined us in all the activities throughout the next few days. We drove to Riverside Middle School, in Pendleton, SC for a workshop for 30,8th grader students enrolled in an Agricultural Science course with agriscience teacher, Mrs. Katie Gilson, and Amanda Poole, Student Teacher from Clemson University’s Agricultural Education Program. 

Photo credit: Melissa Leventhal

The 55-minutes went by really quickly. All of the students were super engaged but sadly, we couldn't finish the assembly.

Photo credit: Melissa Leventhal

Some mentioned that they didn’t want to leave the classroom. Later on, Katie shared with me that some students asked her if she could sign them a slip to stay and not attend the next class. I was very touched by the excitement these students had.

Video credit: Melissa Leventhal

I decided that it would be best to become familiar with the area where we would be leading the workshops Friday and Saturday, so in the afternoon Catherine took us to McAdams Hall, at Clemson University. Everyone we ran into was very nice and welcoming. After checking the space, Melissa and I went out for a late lunch/early dinner to a beautiful restaurant called ‘Solé on the Green’. The food was delicious and the views were amazing.

Photo credit: Paola Moreno-Roman

After our meal, we went back to the hotel to prep for the following day. I went to bed early to make sure I was well-rested.

Day 2

The Clemson University Agricultural Education Inservice Program is a day and a half professional development conference for agriscience teachers in South Carolina. It started at 8am on Friday morning with a welcome speech by Dr. Phil Fravel, Professor of Agricultural Education at Clemson University, and a brief overview of the activities that will take place throughout the day. The teachers begin their professional development workshop rotations right after the welcome, so in the meantime Melissa and I double checked we had everything needed for our workshops.

Photo credit: Melissa Leventhal, Paola Moreno-Roman

Thanks toPerkins V, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act that provides secondary and postsecondary schools with funding to support career and technical education programs all the teachers who attended the Foldscope workshop received an Assembled Classroom Set  which is composed of 10 Assembled Foldscopes and accessories such as an LED light, minipipette, etc.A Foldscope Slide Maker Kit that included extra microscope slides and coverslips was also provided.

Photo credit: Hannah Wooten

I led two workshops today. The teachers at both workshops were very engaged - their curiosity and excitement was contagious!

Photo credit: Hannah Wooten, Paola Moreno-Roman

One teacher caught a gnat and looked at it under the Foldscope. He was fascinated by all the details in the gnat’s legs and wings.

Video credit: Melissa Leventhal

After the workshops, I asked attendees how they were planning on incorporating Foldscope into their work, a few attendees mentioned that they were already planning on using the Foldscopes received the following week with their students. One teacher was particularly excited because she teaches at a school in a low-income area and said that ‘these Foldscopes will be life-changing for these students’.

Photo credit: Hannah Wooten, Melissa Leventhal


Throughout the day, I had different opportunities to learn more about the agricultural education teachers and their personal stories. I felt so inspired by their hard work and passion for teaching. In the evening, Melissa and I attended the‘Alpha Tau Alpha’ banquet, a National Professional Honorary Agricultural Education Organization for students who have chosen a major in agricultural education or extension education. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the agricultural community in South Carolina.

Day 3

Our last workshop took place in the morning. Just like yesterday, all the teachers were very engaged and excited to explore different samples with their Foldscopes. A sample that caused a lot of excitement, surprisingly, was hair. Later on that day, Melissa and I flew back. This was a really fun experience and I am excited to see what scientific observations each attendee will make and how they will incorporate the Foldscope into their classrooms. Also, I am excited to keep working with Catherine and her STEM-it Up team on the development of lesson plans tailored to meet the need to enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills particularly in the plant science curriculum taught in School-based Agricultural Education programs.

Photo credit: Melissa Leventhal