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 2013 NAAE Convention
(For news releases, see individual entries below)
Spring Creek High School
Spring Creek, Nevada
Instructors: Ty Smith and Aaron Albisu
Aaron Albisu and Ty Smith are the agriculture teachers at Spring Creek High School. Situated in the fourth largest school district in Nevada, Elko County School District, Spring Creek High School has approximately 900 students, 275 of which are enrolled in the agricultural education program. Spring Creek's agricultural education program is influenced by the community's main industries, agriculture and mining, and includes courses in agribusiness, agricultural leadership, horticulture, animal and veterinary science, along with four courses related to agricultural mechanics engineering and technology (AMET). Their program also has articulations agreements for 17 credits with the nearby Great Basin College.
To enhance its expansive curriculum, Spring Creek's program includes a dual-purpose classroom and lab, a 60'x30' greenhouse where the students produce poinsettias and bedding plants, a 100 gallon display fish tank in the classroom, and two 500 gallon tanks in the greenhouse. The larger fish tanks are used to produce a crop of fish in cooperation with the Nevada Fish and Game and the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. To facilitate the AMET portion of their program they have a 6,000 sq. ft. agriculture mechanics lab with permanent stations and equipment for welding, plumbing, electrical, small gas engines, surveying, and oxy-fuel cutting and hydraulic systems simulators. The hydraulic simulators were purchased in 2012 with grant money to meet demand from local employers for graduates with a broad range of mechanical knowledge and skill.
Spring Creek's program combines experiential learning and community involvement to better serve its students and community. Through partnerships with local ranchers, mining companies, and wildlife/natural resources agencies, its students gain real world experience, such as learning how to conduct pregnancy checks on cattle or marketing and selling native trees and shrubs. A partnership with the Nevada Department of Transportation allowed students to create a 29'x29' metal art sculpture for the centerpiece of a new round-about.
"Ty and Aaron model leadership for their students; I do not hesitate to refer new teachers to them for advice about building a successful program," said Sue Poland, agricultural education programs professional for the Nevada Department of Education. "Both teachers have gone above and beyond in assisting the state in the revamping of agricultural education standards and frameworks. They realized that by being involved in the process, Spring Creek High School agriculture students will be better prepared when it came to taking the technical skills assessment and employability skills tests now required in Nevada. Their student scores reflect their foresight in being involved in the process."
Newport School District
Instructors: Steve Davis and Taylor Gwin
Steve Davis and Taylor Gwin are the agriculture teachers at Newport High School. Situated in an agriculturally diverse area in Arkansas's delta, Newport High School's agriculture program was reopened in 2005 after a five year hiatus. The program has three curriculum pathways: animal systems, plant systems, and power, structural and technical systems. Gwin and Davis also developed a crop management course, which was the first crop course taught in Arkansas. They are now working with the Arkansas Department of Career Education to add it to the state course list for agriculture.
With the support of their administration and community, Davis and Gwin have grown the program and its facilities to include a 70-acre school farm. Students in the agriculture program grow soybeans and wheat on the school farm, mirroring the area's crop production, and work on the farm has also provided opportunities for the students to form industry partnerships, including partnering with fertilizer companies to conduct test plots. In another partnership, students in the program's FFA chapter host Ag Day each spring for the local elementary school, teaching them about food and safety. This annual event not only provides learning and teaching opportunities for all students involved, but also serves as a recruitment event for the FFA chapter.
"The Newport agricultural education program is responsible for influencing many students in so many positive ways," said Kim Harris, a mother of two students who have gone through the Newport program. "Newport's program has grown a great deal in the past few years and the school district expanded the program by adding an additional teacher this year. I am thrilled that more students will have the opportunities my children have had through membership."
Oelwein High School
Instructor: Scott Smalley
Scott Smalley is the agriculture teacher at Oelwein Community Schools. Situated in Northeast Iowa, Oelwein Community Schools serves 1226 students from three towns in an agriculturally diverse area. Smalley instructs over a third of the 7th-12th graders, using agriculture I-IV sequence for 9th-12th graders, covering topics in animal science (I), plant science (II), agricultural perceptions and issues (III) and agribusiness management and agrimarkets (IV). To incorporate the middle school students into agricultural education, he offers an exploratory agriculture course to all 7th graders and a semester-long 8th grade elective agriculture course each semester. The majority of the 9th-12 grade courses are offered as either dual credit courses or, when completed in a sequence (ag. I, II, and III), are credit towards a year of college science credit at any of Iowa's three Regent universities.
To enhance his expansive curriculum, the program has two greenhouses, two 500 gallon aquaculture tanks, and a 13 acre land lab. The heated greenhouse, operated by horticulture students, is primarily used to grow annuals and perennials while the cold hoop greenhouse is used to produce vegetables which are sold to local schools, colleges, hospitals and restaurants. The use of these facilities provides experiential learning opportunities to students both during classroom instruction and also during supervised agricultural experiences (SAE's), long-term projects supervised by Smalley.
The program at Oelwein also places an emphasis on community service. Through partnerships with various local groups, students clean up and beautify their community while gaining practical experience planting trees, laying mulch, trimming bushes and trees, and completing landscaping projects. Partnering with elementary teachers, the agriculture students regularly conduct agricultural lessons to the elementary students. Lesson topics range from farm safety to agricultural literacy to nutrition.
"I can see the passion from the instructors in this program. From long hours spent in the agriculture room to weekend leadership conferences they are some of the most dedicated, caring, intelligent individuals that I know," said Amy Grantz, agricultural educator at neighboring Starmont High School. "It is not only motivating for myself but as well as others around the Oelwein area. The instructor is an advocate for agriculture and has grown and leads his program and students to love every bit of agriculture."
Spencer County High School
Instructors: Darryl Matherly and Bland Baird
Darryl Matherly and Bland Baird are the agriculture teachers at Spencer County High School. Through the years, the community around Spencer County, located 25 miles southeast of Louisville, has become increasingly urban due to residential development. Because of the decrease in available land for agricultural use and the changing backgrounds of their students, Matherly and Baird's agricultural education program has shifted from a focus on traditional production agriculture to alternative agricultural enterprises. To facilitate this, they have built a greenhouse, an aquaculture facility, and a food processing lab.
The aquaculture facility is one of only two of its kind in Kentucky and serves as a model for other schools looking to build similar facilities. Currently students in the aquaculture class are gaining valuable research experience by working with the Kentucky State University Aquaculture Extension Service to breed and produce Australian Red Claw Crayfish.
Matherly and Blaird use FFA to teach students leadership skills and the value of community service. Students host an annual farm toy show, which displays a variety of farm equipment and miniature farm replicas coupled with kids' activities. The FFA chapter also prepares and donates fruit baskets to the local nursing home each year.
"The agricultural education program at Spencer County High School is indeed helping students find their place in the world," said Matt Chaliff, executive secretary of the Kentucky FFA Association.
Oakleaf High School
Orange Park, Florida
Instructor: Keri Sidle
Keri Sidle is the agriculture teacher at Oakleaf High School. Oakleaf was opened in 2010 to accommodate a booming population in the Orange Park area, and Sidle has been the agriculture teacher there since the school opened. When the school opened, she had a classroom, biotechnology lab, tissue culture lab and one large green house. Now, with the help of many partners, the school has added 12 raised garden beds, butterfly garden, swine facility and chicken coop.
Last year Oakleaf's agricultural program opened a plant biotechnology academy, which gives students three concurrent courses in agriscience and biotechnology. Students in the academy learn about plant structure and growth, animal anatomy, DNA extraction, soil profiles, transgenic organisms, biofuels, Mendelian genetics and water quality. Although it has only been open a year, the biotechnology academy at Oakleaf already serves as an example to other programs looking to start a similar program.
Vernon-Verona Sherrill Center School
Verona, New York
Instructor: Keith Schiebel
Keith Schiebel is the agriculture teacher at V.V.S. Central. An ever-changing local economy has forced Schiebel to adapt the agricultural program from a "cows and plows" focus to more "taps and trees." Even though the subject matter has evolved, the nature of the V.V.S. Central program is still very exploratory, introducing students to many facets of agriculture. Through the program, students are able to explore plant science, animal science, agricultural mechanics, food science and agricultural business.
As another indicator of the program's constantly evolving nature, agriculture department land once occupied with calf hutches is now an aquatics center. The area next to the school, previously a land laboratory where alfalfa and corn were grown, is now home to willow trees and switch grass as a part of a biomass research project. In addition, the agriculture program at V.V.S also has a maple syrup project, where students identify trees and collect sap, then process the sap into maple syrup. Their maple syrup production is a licensed business by the New York Department of Agriculture, so students also learn to manage the business aspect of maple syrup production and how to grade and label maple products using industry standards. Students also share their knowledge of the maple industry with others through the use of a 28-foot mobile trailer used to promote agricultural literacy and awareness.
"[V.V.S. agriculture programs] are a model for agricultural education in general as well as agriculture career opportunities,"; said Kevin Keith, local program success specialist for the National FFA Organization.