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)