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.

All Ideas Unlimited award winner photos from 2013 NAAE Convention
(For news releases, see individual entries below)

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Region I
Josh Evans
Preston High School
Preston, Idaho

news release

To increase the efficiency of seeding plants while also decreasing the amount of wasted potting media in his school greenhouse, Evans designed and created a greenhouse media table. Using two 55-gallon plastic barrels, plywood and a metal mesh tabletop, Evans created a potting work table that his students could use to fill pots and bedding flats, store potting media, reduce the amount of potting media on the ground and help speed up clean-up.

"I estimate, that in the planting of over 200 flats of bedding plants and 50 twelve-inch hanging baskets, we have saved over three cubic feet of potting media," Evans said. "This is a savings of thirty dollars to the program, which is equal to three flats of flowers. With that much soil being collected, it also increases the efficiency of clean up time at the conclusion of class. This addition to the greenhouse program has been a great asset."

Evans' table is 4 feet wide by 4 feet long and 32 inches tall. A half-barrel is mounted at each end of the hinged tabletop. The tabletop is framed below with angle iron, directing any dropped potting media into a barrel half that is mounted underneath like a drawer, easily sliding out so that all potting media swept off the table can be dumped back into the side mounted media barrels. These side media barrels are covered with wooden lids, allowing for more table-top workspace and closed storage of the potting media.

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Region II
Dan Stehlik
Republic County Jr./Sr. High School
Belleville, Kansas

news release

To reduce the time and labor it takes Stehlik and his students to feed hay to the school's commercial ewe operation, he and his advanced welding students designed and created a bale hauler that could unload 1500 pounds of hay from a truck in a few minutes, a job that used to take Stehlik and his students 30-45 minutes and a lot of labor.

"As other instructors look for ways to engage students in higher level thinking applications and means to integrate academics into welding and mechanical curriculum, projects like this can provide the opportunity," Stehlik said. "This project developed from a need and resulted in an opportunity to produce more while saving time and labor. Working smarter, not harder!"

The bale hauler project incorporated math and physics concepts like finding balance points and force inputs. The students were forced to think on many levels, from academic to economic to safety. Their creative thinking and problem-solving work resulted in a simple low-cost tool, which can benefit not only the school's program but also other producers.

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Region III
Zachary Morris & Dr. Ryan Anderson
West Liberty High School
West Liberty, Iowa

news release


Morris knows that it can be challenging for students to develop cultural understanding within a diverse community. To face this challenge while building community connections, Morris and his students created a "farm to restaurant" program, growing and selling fresh salsa ingredients for El Patio Family Mexican Restaurant, a local community favorite. Morris' students already had commercial growing experience through raising vegetables for their school's lunchroom, so they expanded their operation by growing jalapeño peppers and Roma tomatoes for El Patio's fresh salsa. Morris' students ran every aspect of the project, from growing and harvesting the vegetables, to communicating with the restaurant and keeping records of total pounds produced and sold.

In addition to selling their fresh vegetables to the restaurant, the students created table tents for the restaurant to market their agricultural education program with fun facts about El Patio Restaurant, West Liberty FFA, and agriculture, printed in both English and Spanish. Dr. Ryan Anderson, agriculture professor at Iowa State University, worked with Morris on developing ideas and suggestions to continue to move the program forward.

The students' salsa program has continued to grow; this past fall the students conducted a salsa making workshop with elementary students using produce from their garden, integrating the National FFA's Food For All grant and the Nutrients for Life program. The salsa program has even expanded to create unique agriculture-based entrepreneurial and work placement projects for the students, including a community garden project that produces food for a local nursing home and working as servers at El Patio.

"If instructors currently have Farm to School programs they can utilize their garden beds to reach out to community food service businesses to promote growth of locally prepared produce. In addition to promoting diversity within the community; the students can also learn about advertising and making positive business connections," Morris said. "The result of the salsa project has made a tremendous impact on our program. Membership and participation of Hispanic students within the classroom has increased in all courses, especially horticulture."

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Region IV
Amanda Ross
Palmyra High School
Palmyra, Missouri

news release

To help her students visualize certain animal science concepts, Ross built plywood cutouts of a cow, chicken and hog. The cutouts are large - varying in height from 27 inches for the chicken to 57 inches for the cow. Ross has used the cutouts to enhance student understanding areas like animal anatomy, meat identification, animal nutrition and digestion, animal reproduction and veterinary science.

After each lesson, students make paper models of the various organs of the system being discussed and color them accordingly. They then tape the organs to the cutout, depicting how the system would look in the animal. In animal reproduction, both sides of the cutouts are used to let students see the male and female systems at the same time.

"The three-dimensional wooden cutouts can be extremely beneficial in the classroom setting," Ross said. "Their value goes even beyond their use as a teaching aid in the fact that they add an interest and excitement to the classroom and the unit that a poster or powerpoint just cannot create."

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Region V
Taylor Brown
East Jackson Comprehensive High School
Commerce, Georgia

news release

Brown knows that not all students learn the same way, and as a teacher, thinks that teaching the same way every day can get boring for everyone. To help mix things up, she developed the "D.I.Y. Classroom: 30 Tools to Differentiate & Integrate Your Classroom." The 30 tools consist of numerous handouts, activities, portfolios and assessments and integrate math, science, writing, reading, social studies and art. For instance, the FFA Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Board allows students to choose what assignments they want to do, giving them a voice and decision in their learning and increasing engagement.

Brown's DIY Classroom idea grew out of tips and suggestions she collected from other teachers, which she modified to fit her own classroom and students. Her hope is that other agriculture teachers can take her tools and use them as a jumping-off point to add variety into their own programs.

"I invite agricultural educators to take my examples, modify the activities to meet their students' needs, and take a chance on trying a new approach to teaching a topic," she said.

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Region VI
Paul Heasley
State College High School
State College, Pennsylvania

news release

To enhance sustainability and vegetable production concepts for elementary students, Heasley came up with the "Grow House." The house is a playhouse-like structure made of cattle panels, zip ties, and real-life plants. After assembling the house shaped structure he placed it in the elementary school's garden. Heasley and his students planted plants around the house's perimeter and grew up to create the walls and roof.

This project serves many different roles. It serves as the service learning connection between Heasley's program and the elementary students in the district. It also serves as a teaching tool that allows Heasley to integrate National Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Career Cluster Content Standards into his curriculum. The project also integrates the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics model into his instruction.

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