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.
Students in the veterinary technology program at Monument Valley High School operate a small clinic where people can bring in animals for vaccinations and other care. With the nearest veterinarian being 150 miles away, the clinic provides a great service to the community. Besides pets, many sheep and goats are also brought in. These animals can often be the victims of stray dog attacks and often need sutures to close their wounds.
McBride was looking for a way to prepare his students to perform sutures when he developed a way to practice on bananas. By using green bananas, the students are able to practice their sutures with sewing needles and dental floss. It is a low cost, effective way to practice this skill and McBride has found that, by practicing before suturing an actual patient, students’ confidence and real-life success increases significantly.
“We have visiting veterinarians come and work with our students and they are very impressed with their suturing capabilities,” McBride said. “In fact, in many situations the veterinarians have let the students close for them during surgery.”
Nave was looking for a hands-on, fun way to increase student participation in FFA, leadership activities, and community service projects when he developed the Chetopa FFA Bucks Program and Auction. As a part of the project, students earn FFA bucks—pretend money, essentially—for participating in various events throughout the year. The FFA officer team is in charge of determining how many bucks an event is worth, keeping track of member participation, and distributing the bucks that students earn.
“Not only does this program increase participation in FFA activities, but it is a great teaching tool,” Nave said. “It teaches the students organizational, planning, and record keeping skills.”
At the end of the school year, students are able to use their FFA bucks to bid on items in the FFA Bucks Auction held during the chapter’s annual FFA awards banquet. Items for the auction are donated by community members throughout the school year. Nave says that the chapter has had to move their banquet to a larger facility because the auction has lead to an increase in attendance, from both students and the community.
“The Auction night is a really good chance to have some fun with your students, parents and community members,” he said. “Each year, I have more people in the community who want to donate to the FFA Buck Auction, because they had so much fun at the event.”
Students in Christiansen’s agriculture classes at Flandreau High School are getting paid for hard work in the classroom and FFA. Christiansen developed a record keeping system that awards students for classroom effort through a points system.
Students sign a contract at the beginning of each quarter, indicating how much pay they would like to receive. At the end of each class period, students must fill out their time card indicating how much time they actually worked during that class. If a student misses class, they do not get paid until they make up the time. At the beginning of each week, students receive their check for the time they worked the previous week. These points can be used for benefits in the classroom such as promotions or paid vacation, which allows students who miss class for school activities to make up for the time they missed. Participation in the Flandreau FFA Chapter allows students to gain bonus points.
Students in Christiansen’s class are benefitting from the grading system which Christiansen named the Grade Payment System (GPS). Not only does GPS encourage students to participate in class, but it also is preparing them for their future careers.
“This seems to be a good way of motivating students to take school more seriously,” says Christiansen. “This is just one way to make school more relative in the world of work. With the changing attitudes of students, teachers must make every effort to help propel them to the next level.”
Chenevey, agriculture teacher at West Holmes High School, was looking for a way to teach a unit about hydraulics to her eleventh and twelfth grade students in a way that was cleaner and simpler than working on large-scale equipment, so she developed the ‘Hydraulic Robots’ unit. For the project, students work in groups and are required to build a robot utilizing concepts about hydraulic systems. They must create their robot using only 10 syringes of varying sizes and five feet of plastic tubing. At the conclusion of the project, their robot must be able to pick up a Styrofoam cup, move it one inch up and down and three inches from side to side.
“The robot project allows students to be creative, enhances learning, and applies concepts, while creating a working robot,” Chenevey said. “My favorite part of this project is that you give them very little instructions, which drives them nuts and makes them think outside of the box.”
After all groups have presented their working robots, they write a report that analyzes the concepts and theories used in creating their projects. This self-analysis supplements the discussions that happen during the building process, helping students truly understand how hydraulics work and how their robots correlate to hydraulic equipment in the real world.
Lough was looking to develop a lesson for her students at Lincoln Middle School that would provide students with a school-based Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) that extended from the farm to the table and met the Florida middle school agriscience curriculum standards when she discovered vermicomposting (composting utilizing worms).
Students fed worms with scraps from home and the school cafeteria. Lough used videos, both international and local popular press readings, and several books to gather activities and assignments for students. They learned about vermicomposting, worm biology, and biodegradation throughout the school year. Eventually, the class plants and harvests agricultural crops in the compost they have created, allowing them to see the project all the way through from developing a nutrient-rich compost to eating the crops they’ve produced. Students learned about environmental resources, how to plant and grow agricultural crops while learning about the safe use of tools and equipment, and cross-curricular knowledge ranging from mathematics and history to writing and communication.
“Students explore novel ideas, engage in self-directed learning and decision-making, incorporate goal setting and grow in global awareness,” Lough said of the lesson. “Vermicomposting offers a fun, engaging SAE from farm to table that is cross-curriculum, engaging and self-directed,” Lough said. “My hope is that my students get hooked on the delights and tastiness of growing their own produce and become better global citizens and environmental stewards.”
Berescik was looking for a way to teach her students about forest succession, the changing of a forest community over time in a given location, when she developed a lesson using milk jugs. The lesson helps students understand the forest succession concept by seeing it on a miniature scale.
“It is a great lesson to show what could happen in places as global warming impacts water levels and temperatures and new plant species take over as others die,” Berescik said.
For the project, which she calls ‘Forest in a Jar’, students collect soil and other organic materials from the forest next to the school to develop the floor of their forest in a milk jug. Water is added to the jugs to demonstrate flooding of the environment. Students then add aquatic and non-aquatic plants to the milk jug and record the changes that happen over time. Some of these changes include alterations in pH, soil depth, and change in soil quantity. Berescik facilitates class discussions relating the project to current events and the importance and hazards of flood waters. She asks a series of questions before and after the project to help students review the concepts covered.
“I also ask questions for written review such as: ‘What phenomenon will cause the water level to change and how will that impact the plant life in the bottle?’” she explained.