Bringing FCS to Market
Attendees at the 2019 Moscow Farmers Market dabbled in tie-dye, sampled muffins in taste tests, designed bookmarks and more as the result of an idea brought to life by University of Idaho graduate student Beth Ropski.
A student in the U of I Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), Ropski brought her background in commercial cooking as well as teaching FCS to the creative table. Shelley McGuire, FCS director, challenged Ropski in spring 2019 to develop a concept for community outreach. With assistance from FCS faculty, Ropski decided on a booth at the Moscow Farmers Market, next to the U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ Summer of Science booth.
FCS at U of I focuses on food and nutrition, early childhood development, personal finance and apparel, textiles and design, all of which Ropski wove into free, interactive activities. While the activities were targeted at young children, older audiences also participated.
“I do focus on younger kids since we are next to the Summer of Science, but our age range is from one to 80 of people who come and participate,” Ropski said. “I have some ladies who are older and come every week.”
Activities at the market ranged from dying natural products, making playdough, and scavenger hunts, to muffin taste tests and ways to bake cookies using alternative flours. Ropski also enlisted local businesses, such as BookPeople, for the bookmark making activity and Tye Dye Everything for the tie-dyeing session.
“I really like the hands-on activities with kids where they get really excited,” Ropski said. “Slime and tie-dyeing was the messiest. The messier the better in my opinion.”
For Ropski, the experience reaffirmed her decision to return to school to seek a master’s degree in FCS and her goals to continue on as an educator.
“It was a really great experience for me professionally because I was able to show the people in my department and people that I will be interviewing with in the future that I can be given a budget and make something very successful out of it,” Ropski said.
A Path to FCS
Ropski, 29, earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and English with a creative writing emphasis from U of I in 2013. She stayed in Moscow after graduation to pay off student loans, working as a cook at various Moscow restaurants. She considered a career in the culinary industry but began feeling burned out.
“It just wasn’t a lifestyle that was working well for me,” Ropski said.
She returned home to Meridian and spent over a year traveling for a composite deck company. She used the travel time to figure out her interests and goals, which led her to a part-time job working with at-risk children at an elementary school in Meridian. That evolved when her mom, a school nurse for West Ada School District, told her about an opening for an FCS teacher at Mountain View High School in Meridian. Since she had a lengthy background in the culinary industry, she qualified for an occupational specialist certification and started her new position 10 days before the start of the 2017-18 school year.
“It was amazing and I loved it,” Ropski said. “I was really nervous because it’s high school students. I remember high school and it wasn’t very fun. But, it ended up being really fun and I decided I wanted to make it my career. It was an excellent experience and one that I can give credit to me wanting to become a teacher.”
After a year of teaching, Ropski applied to the FCS master’s program to obtain her teaching license.
“FCS teaches you all the things that you should know,” she said. “I feel like before it was brushed aside as homemaker activities, but you can look at it now and it has developed into such a science with careers that you can end up making excellent money in.”
FCS teaches you all the things you should know.Beth Ropski, FCS graduate student
A Future in Education
Ropski is currently working on a needs assessment survey of secondary education FCS teachers in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Wyoming as part of her graduate studies. She is interested in learning more about professional development opportunities that are content specific for teachers and how they impact their curriculum.
“When I taught FCS I didn’t have any content specific professional development training which didn’t necessarily apply to me since I came from industry,” she said. “I do know that a lot of people don’t come from industry, they come from the academic route, and then they are supposed to be training students to enter industry when they’ve never had any experience or professional development in industry.”
Ropski will graduate in May 2020 and although she’s not certain of her next plan, she does know that education will be part of it.
“There are so many opportunities,” she said. “Eventually I’ll probably get my Ph.D. in something education related but I haven’t fully decided on when that will be or what is next. But I do know that I love education and that my future will be in education somewhere in some form.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Melissa Hartley, University Communications and Marketing
Published in November 2019