Ideas Unlimited Awards

For years teachers have been exchanging classroom and teaching ideas. This is what keeps the agricultural education programs alive and teachers enthusiastic. The NAAE Ideas Unlimited Award recognizes teachers for developing and sharing innovative ideas with their colleges nationwide.

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Region I
Bob Brown
Washington FFA Association
Olympia, WA

Brown currently serves as the Washington FFA Executive Secretary, after retiring from a 30-year career as an agricultural educator.  When he was teaching, Brown used a hands-on, creative approach to illustrate the parts of a flower for the visual and tactile learner.  His project is extremely low budget, and uses normal classroom supplies, craft materials, and pop bottles.

Using a template, students cut eight petals into one bottle and eight sepals into another.  Students color the petals, using their creativity to individualize their flower. Next the bottle with the petals is placed above the one with the sepals.  Students then use colored pom-poms, pipe cleaners and colored beads to construct the pistil and stamen. When the project is glued together, students have a visual, three-dimensional representation of a complete flower. 

"Students enjoy producing the pop bottle flowers," said Brown.  "It allows the instructor to discuss the complete, incomplete, perfect and imperfect flowers in sessions about plant reproduction."

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Region II
Jon Derek Mitchell
Chattanooga Public Schools
Chattanooga, OK

Mitchell developed a creative, hands-on method to teach greenhouse management.

"One of the biggest challenges agricultural educators face in these ever-changing times is developing new curriculum and experiential learning activities that not only captivate the learner's interest but also integrate higher-order thinking skills," said Mitchell.  His greenhouse management course meets that challenge head on.

During Mitchell's Introduction to Horticulture course, students are divided into groups at the beginning of a three week unit.  The students tour a local greenhouse, Dream Valley Farms, to experience a commercial operation first hand.  After this tour, student groups plan, design and build a greenhouse using supplies that they purchase on a fifty-dollar budget.  "The students are required to build a frame with the covering of their choice, decide on a heating and cooling system, and arrange their benches so if their greenhouse was built to scale, it could hold 10,000 bedding plants," said Mitchell.  When the model greenhouses are constructed, student groups present their ideas to the class.  The presentation is to cover the design, purpose and efficiency of their greenhouse. 

"This assignment has grown to become a student favorite at Chattanooga due to the diversity of instruction the greenhouse offers," said Mitchell.  "As an educator, I think the students appreciate the opportunity to learn by doing and the freedom to be creative."

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Region III
Tracy Harper
Western Technical College
LaCrosse, WI

Harper has developed a way of teaching genetics that is fun for her and her students using marshmallow ‘animals' called Rebops.  This activity is great for teachers because it keeps the students interested with hands-on activity and through the ownership they feel by taking part in the activity.  Students are able to develop their own baby Rebops based on chromosomes they select from parent species. 

Students work in groups, with each group having a set of parent traits (male and female).  The students select one chromosome from each of the genetic groups, which mimics fertilization.  Once the chromosomes have been selected, the students use a decoding sheet to build their Rebops.  Once students have built their own Rebop baby, they can look at heritability by selecting a mate for their Rebop.  They then use a Pearson square to determine the possible genotypic and phenotypic traits based on the selected cross.

"Every student will likely end up with a different genetic code for their Rebop," said Harper.  "However, if there are two identical Rebop babies, they have twins."

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Region IV
Mark Lemmon
Clark County High School
Kohoka, Missouri

In an effort to teach students about artificial insemination, Lemmon developed a hands-on lesson plan utilizing Pixie Stick candy.  During the lesson, students learn how to properly thaw semen and to load the straw in an artificial insemination gun.  Using Pixie Sticks is more cost effective and is fun for the students because they have the opportunity to eat the candy after they complete the activity.

The lesson starts with an overview of all tools used in the semen-thawing thawing process and a discussion of the correct methods and temperatures.  Next, Lemmon demonstrates how to thaw the semen straw and load it into an artificial insemination gun.  Students then master the skill by pulling frozen pixie sticks from a tank, thawing the candy, and loading the straw into an artificial insemination gun.

"Using this pixie stick technique gives students the opportunity to see first-hand what the cattle breeders do during the season," said Lemmon.  "This hands-on approach also allows the students the chance to have some fun and eat candy while learning in the classroom."

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Region V
Lori Albritton
Fort King Middle School
Ocala, FL

Albritton has utilized several innovative and engaging lessons in her classroom.  Her award-winning idea is entitled "Marketing Your Bread."  Students are divided into teams and learn about the properties of yeast by making bread in a bag.

After the teams bake bread and make close observations of its taste, smell and appearance, they create a marketing scheme to promote their product.  This includes designing the packaging, creating a slogan and a giving a classroom presentation about their product.  During the unit, students also learn about byproducts from bread production, fermentation, and the several uses of wheat.

"This activity involved group planning, collaboration, critical thinking and an oral presentation.  By participating in this activity I hope that my students can appreciate the importance of agriculture and how the industry impacts our daily lives," said Albritton.

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Region VI
Aaron Geiman
North Carroll High School
Westminster, MD

With farming practices that began in the 1960s causing more environmental damage over the years, agriculturalists have started using techniques that are more precise in determining the needs of the land.  With this in mind, Geiman uses an activity that allows his students to conduct a precision agriculture simulation on their school's football field.  Before beginning this experiment, students are trained on how to use the needed equipment properly.  Following their training, students are split into groups.  Each group collects geospatial data of the non-turf grass plants growing on the field using Garmin GPS receivers.  Once students have collected the data for their assigned one square-foot plot, the data is combined into a class set.

Using the data, the students use colored markers to show the areas that have problems with weed density.  Using this information, the students collaborate on how much herbicide is needed and where.  They learn how a sprayer is programmed to spread the proper amount on each area, and conduct a survey on the costs of various herbicides.  The activity is a way for students to learn about new techniques that are better for the environment while having fun.

"This activity is applicable to numerous agricultural courses and topics," said Geiman.  "This activity supports mathematics, science, technology, and communication curriculum standards, proving that agricultural education supports national and state academic assessment programs spawned from No Child Left Behind."

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