Sensational. This is the best way to describe this yearâ€™s NAAE Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agriculture Education Programs, sponsored by the National FFA Alumni Association.
The NAAE Awards these programs for their overall success, growth, and motivation.
All Outstanding Middle/Secondary Program Award winner photos from 2012 NAAE Convention
(For news releases, see individual entries below)
Stacy Lischke and Michael Hougan are the agriculture teachers at Snohomish High School. The school has a population of 1900 students, grades 9 to 12, 300 of which are enrolled in agriculture. Snohomish's science department is not large enough to handle all the students who need science credits, so the agriculture program is cross-credited with science, allowing students to take agriculture classes to meet graduation and college science requirements. These courses include agriscience, animal biology, plant biology, veterinary biology, and agricultural biotechnology.
The Snohomish agriculture program offers a contemporary look at agriculture focusing on recent technological advancements in the agriculture industry. Students have the opportunity to learn about bioethics, agricultural issues, DNA, and genetically modified organisms; which allows them to make informed decisions as consumers of agricultural products.
The agriculture students at Snohomish have been given many opportunities to grow their leadership qualities in the areas of local food production and consumption, sustainability, and green technology. This year, Lischke and Hougan had students research the use of algae for the production of biofuels and feeding supplements for livestock. Students presented their findings during the Green Expo at South Seattle Community College."Our responsibility as agriculture teachers is to provide the best hands-on activities, teach concepts and ideas to meet state and industry science and math standards, and to provide many career and technical skill opportunities in the curriculum," said Lischke.
Alan G. Smith and Katie Gruntmeir are the agriculture teachers at Cushing High School. The school serves over 500 students, grades 9 through 12. The agriculture program currently consists of 105 FFA members. Courses available in the program include agriculture power and technology, botany, animal science, greenhouse management, and agriscience. Botany, formerly known as horticulture, is now available for lab science credit at Cushing, appealing to a wider range of students. Students have many opportunities in these courses to get hands-on experience in horticulture, from plant propagation to marketing the annual plant sale.
"Our philosophy is to encourage and develop within students a strong sense of pride and work ethic," said Smith. "We believe if students take pride in themselves and are willing to work for the things they believe are worthwhile, then they will leap whatever hurdle is set before them."
The Cushing agriculture department prides itself on its numerous service learning projects. Each Memorial Day, the FFA chapter, along with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, hosts a fishing derby for over 125 children in Cushing. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife stocks the school's pond with catfish for the event. Each child in attendance is provided a fishing pole, tackle and bait for the day.
"Their parents appear to have as much fun as their children, while they are allowed to fish alongside their kids for family bonding," said Smith.
Pam Allen is the agriculture teacher at Mt. Horeb High School. The school has a population of approximately 700 students, and each year 150 to 200 of those students are enrolled in agriculture classes. Agriculture courses at Mt. Horeb High School have traditionally followed the agricultural trends of the community. The curriculum once relied heavily on dairy production, but as agriculture in Mt. Horeb has shifted to more diversified pursuits, so have the courses available in the agriculture program. Courses now include animal sciences, plant sciences, mechanics, agribusiness, and natural resources.
As one of the first schools in the nation to add a biotechnology course to its curriculum, Mt. Horeb's agriculture program continues to advance along with agriculture industry. Students in the program complete labs involving tissue cultures, bacteriology, bacterial transformation, and DNA to analyze the effects of hormones, gravity and herbicides on plant growth. Students are also responsible for the daily maintenance of the greenhouse, which includes a hydroponics system. In the greenhouse, students learn how to start plants from seeds, perform cuttings, and transplant seedlings. Each spring the students hold a popular plant sale that is open to the public.
"Ms. Allen shares a commitment to education that goes beyond the classroom," said Stephanie Spoehr, principal at Mt. Horeb High School. "She seeks ways to improve her own instruction as well as share instructional practices with her peers. Ms. Allen works tirelessly to provide opportunities for students."
Allen has taken many opportunities throughout her teaching career to develop professionally. She served as the Wisconsin State Chair of the USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee. Through this appointment, she was also able to be a member of several committees, including the state and federal Flood Disaster Task Force, USDA NRCS State Technical Committee, USDA FSA National Feed Grains Committee, USDA FSA National Legislative Committee, and the FSA National Committee Leadership Council. She also served as a United States delegate at the second International Conference for Women in Agriculture.
She has also served on the state superintendent's Wisconsin Environmental Standards Writing Team, and Task Force on Agriculture and Science Credit; along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Program on Agriculture Technologies Advisory Council and the Wisconsin Education Association Council State Legislative Committee. Currently, she is the Dairy Department Chair for the Dane County Fair and serves on the Dane County Fair Education Committee. She is also actively involved with the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators.
Allen's dedication to professional growth allows her to enhance her program with new ideas and opportunities for her students. She views education as a giant ladder with career success at the top. Each student is placed at a different rung of the ladder based upon their education, abilities, talents and advantages.
"My job is to help each student climb as many rungs toward the top--career success--as possible," said Allen. "I strongly encourage students to set career goals during high school and prepare for post-secondary education needed to fulfill their goal."
Tim Larrick has been the agriculture teacher at South Shelby for 15 years. When Larrick started teaching at South Shelby in 1997, there were 45 students in the agriculture program. This year, 140 out of the 232 students at the school were involved in his agriculture classes. He contributes the increase in numbers to his belief of providing a quality agriculture program to the community and his students. Larrick teaches ten courses that include Plant Sciences, Agricultural Construction, Horticulture and Agricultural Leadership to offer a variety of opportunities.
"Tim is a well deserving member of the South Shelby staff and one of the rare teacher/advisors that endlessly work to capitalize on their full potential," said Deacon Windsor, Principal of South Shelby High School. "The inherent character and integrity of Tim makes him not only a leader within his school but also a role model for all agricultural students that he comes into contact with."
Earlier this year, the South Shelby agriculture program partnered with the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Farm Bureau to rally at the capitol for SB113 and HB309. Those two bills were designed to modify restrictions in the Animal Care Facilities Act and the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act set two years prior, an important issue to the agriculture community in Missouri. The students were a part of the largest rally ever to take place at the Missouri state capitol and gained first-hand experience what it takes to be an advocate for agriculture.
Students in the South Shelby agriculture program also raised $22,000 for an FFA memorial scholarship for a student who passed away in 2010. Three fundraisers including a bike-a-thon, sweet corn sales, and a bake sale helped fund the scholarship. Organizers also shared the student's story with nearby FFA Chapters and businesses, including Monsanto, which brought in $8000 for the scholarship.
"Members know how important it is to have positive attitudes toward lifelong learning experiences for we have witnessed how precious life is and to not take anything for granted," said Larrick.
Blake Berry and Josh Murdock are the agriculture teachers at Pendleton High School. The community around Pendleton produces a variety of agricultural commodities like dairy, beef, broiler chickens, forage and grains. The Pendleton agriculture program was one of the first in South Carolina, and Berry and Murdock believe it is their job to meet the needs of the diverse and changing community, help their students be successful, and maintain the Pendleton agriculture tradition.
The Pendleton agriculture program has multiple course offerings. In the Wildlife Management class, students practice wildlife biology techniques by studying wildlife habitat conservation at a three-day seminar at the nearby Webb Wildlife Center. Twelve students attended the Tropical Agriculture and Ecology Study Tour in the Republic of Costa Rica for nine days. This trip was made possible from the support of the community and student fundraisers including a wreath making course and selling meat sticks and greenhouse plants. The trip was so successful, that the agriculture program is already planning another international study tour for next year.
Berry and Murdock also implement community service project opportunities to help students give back and connect with local agricultural businesses. The agriculture program uses grant money on school beautification projects and litter awareness. The FFA chapter also gives back by having a voter registration drive and delivering wreaths and color bowls to the local nursing home. Composting and water conservation demonstration materials were provided by a $5000 grant from the Bosch Corporation to help them educate the public on tips and techniques. The Pendleton agriculture program was also asked by the town mayor to manage and promote the Pendleton Farmers' Market.
"We are extremely impressed with all students that are involved with the ag ed program and consider this program to be the best option for leadership training and personal development for young people in our community," said Evan Link, parent of an agriculture student.
Mandi Millen is the agriculture teacher at Cazenovia Central High School. She describes the Cazenovia community as part of the equine valley, known for the horse industry, and having many dairy, and fruit and vegetable farms. With 128 students in her program, Millen teaches fourteen courses in the areas of agricultural science, animal science, and agricultural mechanics.
"…Every student is capable of learning and as teachers we are not only responsible for the specific content we teach but also the many life lessons and growth that comes along with that. We believe that a strong agriculture program is a well-balanced agriculture program," said Millen.
In Millen's veterinary forensics unit, students learn to process evidence when animals are involved in crimes. At the end of the unit, students process a staged animal crime scene and develop theories to solve the crime. Learning about blood cells, skeletal structure, and footprint identification prepare them for this exercise.
Catering to the large equine industry in the area, Millen focuses on the anatomy, physiology and overall management of horses in her Equine Science course, and calls on equine experts to enhance and solidify students' knowledge.
For Millen's advanced students, Biotechnology and Conservation and Natural Resources can be taken for college credit through Tompkins County Community College. Pipetmen donated two refurbished micro-pipets and Ward's Natural Science donated a gel electrophoresis tray set-up to be used in the Biotechnology class. This allows students to take a hands-on approach to genetics versus simply looking at pictures.
"The successful FFA provides a multitude of leadership opportunities, competitions, travel opportunities, and more," said Jan Held Woodworth, parent of agriscience students and member of the Cazenovia Board of Education. "All of this continues to grow at a time when many other organizations are struggling to keep students active."