Skip navigation

August 31, 2011



Done with our workshops!  A little relief is off our shoulders and we can fully enjoy the islands now.



Here’s a little recap from yesterday:


Our day started at Gifft Hill School’s upper campus (middle and high schools) at 8 a.m.  As a group we met briefly to go over what our plan was for the day and run through roles throughout the day.  One thing I learned as an agricultural educator is to roll with the punches and take advantage of opportunities.  This is how I would best describe Tuesday’s workshop.  We had a schedule planned with activities, discussions and a tour.  However, that schedule was just a rough idea for the day.  Which is okay, we came down here to help integrate the horticultural concepts into the curriculum and I believe at the end of the day we were able to do that.



Tuesday’s workshop was for teachers who will be involved with the EARTH program this year.  They have time set aside in their schedules for EARTH labs once per week.  My goal with our workshops was to give the teachers an idea on how to incorporate the experiences of their EARTH labs into their other material.  As agricultural educators we incorporate English, math and science into our materials so this is kind of just flipping the idea around in a way.  If I have learned anything from school in-service meetings I know that some teachers are very adamant about what they have scheduled, some will do their share of voicing their opinions and others will sit, listen and take it all in.  This is kind of how the day went.  By the end of the day, we had a lot of ideas thrown out on how they want the program to fit into each of their areas and what needs to be done to make it happen. 


One idea, which I think the group favored, is to develop materials to distribute at community festivals.  There are two festivals in the spring which they want to be able to set up a booth that will include work from the students in the form of ‘How to’ brochures, data collection and even possibly items they have grown.  In addition to that they are also considering a recipe book that includes the Spanish translation and some recipes that are converted for larger amounts.  The recipe book has been done in the past. 


An idea, which the coordinator, Sarah, plans on implementing, is some stair-stepping where herself and the interns go and teach a lesson, similar to what they taught at the high school, to fourth graders and those fourth graders are able to take the information they learned and teach kindergarten students.  A lot of ideas were tossed around and compiled so that now the interns and coordinator get to look at what they have the resources to do.



To wrap up the day we went down to the beach and experienced the extremely blue waters of the Caribbean.  We saw some fish and coral and in the process accidentally tasted some of the salty water.  If the day thus far didn’t wear us out, we went to supper at a little place in downtown Cruz Bay and visited some of the shops.



Today’s workshop went well.  This group of teachers included lower level as well as high school faculty.  We had a good mix of new teachers and Gifft Hill veterans.  The focus was to bring them up to speed on the program as well as hear their feedback from previous years.  Many were interested in learning more about the program and just wanted to be in the loop on what was going on.  Communication is just as important in one area as in another.  The high school English teacher was more than willing to have her journalism students involved by writing news stories that will be printed in the paper.  A couple elementary teachers were interested in starting an afterschool club based around some of the EARTH activities.  Many were interested in how the community can be involved.  We were able to get a feel for what they believed were benefits of the program through having them write and place Post-It Notes on the wall.  They reflected on their morning of learning by constructing a concept map of what they saw as the EARTH program.  The invitation was also made by Sarah to be included to receive weekly updates on the program.  Ideas were also bounced around for helping students get the credits they need to graduate as well as posing some ideas for possible volunteer hours. 




Overall the workshops went well and I hope they are able to accomplish many of the ideas tossed around in the last two days.  The program has a great foundation and the teachers are more than willing to help in any way possible. 




Now that our workshops have been presented there are a few more meetings that Mike needs to have, otherwise our time on the island is going to be spent on a hike today, maybe some snorkeling tomorrow, and then the trip back to Iowa on Friday.


You can follow Jenny @jlichty30

August 29, 2011


Hello from Saint John’s (U.S. Virgin Islands)!  My name is Jenny Lichty and I’m going to try to write my first blog as a guest on "Day in the Life of an Ag Teacher". 


A little on my background… I graduated from Iowa State University in the spring of 2009 with a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural education and a minor in horticulture.  I accepted a high school teaching position in Northwest Iowa where I taught 9-12 grade students in the areas of animal science, agronomy, horticulture, agricultural leadership, landscape and wildlife management for the last two years.  This summer I decided to return to ISU to work on my master’s degree in agricultural education.  I made the decision at the right time, or that’s how I guess I ended up on Saint John’s Island for this next week.


When I met with my advisor, Mike, in July, he pitched the idea of assisting with the EARTH program.  The EARTH program is a joint program between ISU and Gifft Hill School.  Using container gardens, students are able to play an active role in producing fruits and vegetables all while learning about the processes that go along with the production.  Anyway, he was scheduled to come down to the USVI to present a workshop to middle school teachers on how they can incorporate the container gardens into their curriculum.   Sounds simple right?


Mike has probably been working on this for a little longer than I have but in the last month we’ve dedicated some time to preparing and this last week (first week of university classes after two long weeks at the Iowa State Fair) we met a few times to get everything squared away.  For me, it’s using my experiences to help give the teachers at Gifft Hill School ideas on how they can use the EARTH program to help teach in their curriculum areas.  It’s about giving the students a real-life tie to the material.  We’re hoping that we can piggy-back off each other to help inspire the teachers to create some awesome ideas for lessons. 


I’ll report back on how the workshops go tomorrow.  Now let me tell you what I know about the U.S. Virgin Islands…


If you have never been to the Virgin Islands, I encourage you to try to find time.  It has definitely been nothing like I was expecting.  My thoughts and ideas of the area have gone from one extreme to the other and in no way were any of them right.  When we arrived (after a four hour flight from Atlanta), we were greeted at the Saint Thomas airport with a shot of rum (USVI tradition).  We then found our way to our rental car (a Jeep Wrangler) after waiting for Linley and Karie’s luggage (they are ISU students interning at Gifft Hill for 12 weeks).  Which by the way, things move at a slower pace down here… I guess it’s the vacation-feel of the islands?  Also, if you’re a directional sign reader, prepare yourself: very few roads are actually marked so the Google directions we had didn’t work very well.  We made it out of the airport and began our search for an office supply store (which we found after trekking extremely steep hills hence the Jeep Wrangler was a good idea). 


This is where the agricultural educator experience came in handy… we never are lost, we just like taking the scenic route and getting a feel for the area; if we passed a place more than once it just means it is important.  The office supply store was actually just a computer store but they directed us to Office Max (in the country).  More (steep) hills and tight corners later, we did get the supplies we needed and were ready to leave Saint Thomas and car ferry our way to Saint John’s. 


During the drive though, I kept thinking this really reminds me of California with the hills and curvy roads.  I was always waiting to see a four-lane highway beyond the grove of trees, but I was told I wouldn’t find one.  The car ferry took us from Saint Thomas to Saint John’s and after a long day of travel, nearly put me to sleep.  However, had I have slept, I would’ve missed some great views from the water.  Once we arrived on Saint John’s the views didn’t stop.  We made our way to where we’re staying for the next week just in time to see the beautiful sunset (which is the picture I’m including with this post) looking out from the deck of the interns’ apartment.  A brief tour of the school and a short discussion about tomorrow’s workshop and we’re all ready for bed.


From the Caribbean… good night!

CASE? What is CASE?



From the CASE website: (Just to catch you up to speed)



"CASE is the most powerful tool available for the advancement of agricultural education and enhancement of student learning of agricultural science subject matter."



CASE is an ambitious project started by the National Council for Agricultural Education in 2007. The project goal is to implement a national curriculum for secondary agricultural education that provides a high level of educational experiences to enhance the rigor and relevance of agriculture, food, and natural resources (AFNR) subject matter. Besides elevating the rigor of AFNR knowledge and skills, CASE provides purposeful enhancement of science, mathematics, and English language understanding.



CASE develops curriculum utilizing science inquiry for lesson foundation and concepts are taught using activity-, project-, and problem-base instructional strategies. In addition to the curriculum aspect of CASE, the project ensures quality teaching by providing extensive professional development for teachers that leads to certification.



The final component of CASE is assessment. CASE curriculum is designed to promote common understanding of agricultural concepts by all CASE students. By providing instruction based on common concepts, national assessments of agricultural education programs can be accomplished in ways that are valid and meaningful.



To call my finding out about CASE at all lucky is an understatement. During my tenure as President of the Iowa Ag Teachers Association (IAAE), I had the privilege to attend a National Ag Ed summit. While attending, I went to a workshop on a new Animal Science curriculum, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. Was I to be surprised. And I liked how the facilitators talked about education.



     Was I tired of teaching the same old way I was taught? --- Hmm, well, ... yes,... but is there an alternative?



     Did I want my students to be able to think for themselves, solve problems, and be able to apply their knowledge to ag situations? --- Well, who wouldn't?



Was I looking for a fully integrated curriculum, cross-walked with national standards that increased science, math and english skills; provide everything I needed in an easy to use and find format and provide me more time to teach instead of create tomorrows' materials? --- Boy-Howdy, you got my full attention now.



I can't say that I was fully onboard from the get-go, but the more I have worked with the curriculum, taught it in my classroom, and witnessed the difference that it makes with my students -- I can say that it will take a herd of wild horses to drag me away from it.



This summer we renovated my Agriculture Lab. When the school was built a couple years ago, we weren't exactly sure of how the space would be used, but I knew that by keeping it open, we would at least have options. This summer, with help ($$) from my administration, we converted it into a fully integrated science lab that will allow my CASE courses to be taught with the proper equipment and facilities. I can't wait to get into my first lab with the students and see how it works. Enjoy the before, during, and after pictures.


SE Polk Ag Dept Lab 1.JPGSE Polk Ag Dept Lab 2.JPG

SEP Lab Before 003[2].JPGSEP Lab Before 004[1].JPG








I look forward to increasing the rigor of my curriculum and taking kids to a higher level of cognitive development. And while what I was doing before was (what I thought was) good, I now feel that my curriculum is extremely solid and that my students (and my sanity) will benefit from this adoption. In this era of high accountability, core subject area emphasis and high stakes testing -- how is your program contributing to your school and it's students' performance?



As always, follow the fun on Twitter @AgEd4ME


Posted by Catherine DiBenedetto Aug 19, 2011

Being an AG teacher/FFA Advisor is one continuous circle revolving around the three core model. I never really get a chance to take a BREAK, but during the summer and periodically through out the year, I force myself to put the BRAKES on and slowdown. Our responsibilities never end. SAE projects continue, expand or become new ideas. State Fairs, CDE's, greenhouse maintenance, and leadership training for a new FFA officer team are only a few of the tasks that keep us busy long after the final day of school in June. E-mail communication never takes a break and there always seems to be something urgent that needs to be done by yesterday.


If this sounds familiar, you may rarely get a chance to take a break either. I hope that you take the time to put the brakes on and slowdown from time to time. We all need a chance to recharge, step away from the daily routine and get a fresh start. Today is the last official day of "summer break" for me. The 2011-2012 school year begins Monday August 22, 2011 with an inservice day. Tuesday in also an inservice day and Wednesday the students return from their break. Wednesday begins a new school year with new and exciting innovative ideas to help students achieve higher success.


Here is my TOP TEN (10) list of things to help make your school year as an AG Teacher/FFA Advisor successful:


10) Set GOALS- make sure they are SMART GOALS- not just your own- have your students set goals too- don't forget to review and update them regularly.

9) Implement one new teaching strategy from Day #1- something you have wanted to do but never really did because it was easier to use last year's lesson plan.

8) Use a planner - it helps keep everything organized- encourage your students to use planners too.

7)With your planner...Plan ahead and prepare several months in advance (if possible for the entire year)- calendars fill very quickly, it is good to know what is going on so that you do not double or triple book yourself.

6) Develop something new to enhance a weak area in your FFA Chapter POA (program of activities)-it is so easy to simply do the same thing from year to year. Poll your members and officers to find out what they want to do. Turn that two star chapter award into a three star! ***

5)Wag More, Bark Less- sometimes it is so easy to complain, try to look at the bright side, keep a positive attitude and encourage you students to do the same.

4) Evaluate and make certain what you are doing is good for students... it has to be all about them! The stakes are high , set high expectations.

3) Do you know what INQUIRY BASED LEARNING is? If so, are you using it in your classroom? How can you implement it more? If not, you have homework to do. Check out how to become a National Agriscience Ambassador and your teaching strategies will positively change forever!

2) EAT LUNCH- preferably sitting down-if at all possible!

1)If you rarely get a BREAK, force yourself to at least put the BRAKES on and slowdown from time to time.

Wishing all of you a successful 2011-2012 school year!




As a short rain shower gives the continual flow of people that we call the Iowa State Fair a short pause, it gives me time to reflect on the craziness that ensues.  And as political candidates and pundits circle the grounds in clouds so thick you couldn't throw a pork chop on a stick and not hit one, I wonder how familiar they are with the great education that CTE programs across this country are providing for students and if they realize that contextual education is maybe the answer to the educational questions that are being thrown around.


Looking back at the history of Agricultural Education in this country, I am amazed at the ability of those forefathers to put together an educational model in the turn of the last century, that is not only standing the test of time, but is and has been churning out outstanding students who have made grand contributions to our society.  As we look at the three components -- Classroom, Supervised Agricultural Experience, and FFA - I can't help but draw parallels to the Rigor, Relevance and Relationships that has been touted as of late.


Sometimes i am amazed at how much rigor that kids can handle when you can show a contextual application, a relationship to them and how it can play into a future career.  Our project with the Iowa State Fair is a great example of how all of these aspects can come together to give students a phenominal learning environment.


IF you haven't been following along (#ISFALC11) or "Day in the Life of an Ag Teacher" on the Communities of Practice Blog - the Animal Learning Center is a display at the Iowa State Fair that has live births for patrons to view.  Cattle, Hogs, Sheep, Goats, Chickens are all being born on a daily basis and displays of baby ducks, turkeys and ostriches round out the building.  There is a Ag magic show, the way we live awards and other phenomenal displays from commodity groups.  And right in the middle of it, my students are able to work with it all.  The ability to give animal experience to kids who don't necessarily come from a 'working farm' is invaluable to my students.  Roughly 75% of my students would select the Animal Science pathway out of the 7 career pathways in Agriculture.  YET they have no experience.  This building and related projects give them that experience in a controlled and educational atmosphere and even lets them interact with the public to tell the story of Agriculture.



As the educational conversations continue, lets not forget that the CTE model can be the answer for many of the problems of student engagement, contextual learning, and integration of technology (not just computers) in the educational system.  Let's show what CTE can be.


As always, follow the fun on Twitter @AgEd4ME (#ISFALC11 during the fair)

Kellie Claflin

New beginnings

Posted by Kellie Claflin Aug 14, 2011

This summer has been full of transition and good choices for me. In June I finished student teaching, in July I moved home and searched for a job and in August I'm preparing for my new beginnings!
In June I finished my student teaching, took students to the state FFA convention and attended the professional development conference for Wisconsin ag teachers. It was by far one of the best months yet. State convention was a great experience which allowed me to fall in love with agricultural education all over again. It was so nice to catch up with my ag teacher friends, but more importantly spend time with the FFA members I co-advised during student teaching and support them. For the first time all semester, I was truly able to bond with this group of students and it was great! After a rough end to the semester, it was so nice to hear that even just one student enjoyed my class and inspired her. It’s the little things. My experience at the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educator’s Professional Development Conference was also awesome. I love ag teachers, learning and networking - so it was perfect!

My July was spent moving home and searching for a job. It was nice to spend time with my family who I hadn’t seen for an extended amount of time in quite awhile.

Now I’m getting ready for a new beginning - a job! I’m excited to start teaching in northeastern Wisconsin. My position is unique, as I’ll be teaching in one school district in the morning and another one in the afternoon. It’s a challenge, but it’s great to see the support and passion for agriculture that the communities and districts show.

Currently, I’m trying to find out what side is up as I figure out where to live, what I’m teaching, get classrooms ready and all those other duties that go into getting ready for the school year. I’m excited, scared, optimistic, and overwhelmed all at the same time.

Thank you to you all for your support as I finished my undergraduate classes, survived student teaching and now as I begin my first year teaching!

Good luck to everyone in the new school year! You all rock!

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: