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I am almost ashamed to publicly show this picture but... this is what my room looks like the morning of our State Convention trip.

 

For the first time in four years, I am not running around like a wild woman trying to get props packed and papers printed. We are so prepared that I have time to make this quick post before the kiddos get here! I'm taking 18 members. We are ready to receive some awards we've earned through the year, compete in the Job Interview and Ag Issues CDEs, present a dynamite Agriscience Fair Project, watch 6 seniors receive their State FFA Degree and of course root for our state officer candidate.

 

Tennessee State Convention is held each year in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (or Hillbilly Vegas as we call it ). Can't wait to hear Retiring Addresses, see all of my FFA family and watch my students enjoy the best trip of the year!

 

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Blooming and Booming!

Posted by Tiffany Morey Mar 20, 2013

Happy first day of spring! It sure doesn't feel like it here in NJ where it's currently in the 30s and there is a layer of snow on the ground. However, if you go into our greenhouse it's warm and sunny and you can almost make believe you're somewhere tropical and nice. I know that it's been way too long since my last post, but let's just blame it on the insane amount of FFA and grant paperwork that was all due within the last 2 weeks. I don't know how I can possibly top Wes's recent gem of a blog post (if you haven't read it, go do so!), so I won't even try. Instead, I'll just share what's been happening around here over the past month.

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We'll start with Advocacy and Legislative Leadership Day. Held way back in February the week after FFA Week, it was the first FFA experience for the freshmen. Our chapter took a record 17 members and I don't know what blew the freshmen away more: the sheer number of other kids their age in FFA official dress or the size of the buffet breakfast. I'm going to go with the former, since they have been bugging me about when they get to go on another FFA trip ever since. It was a chapter and program recruitment win!

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After that, we moved onto finishing our preparations for the NJ FFA Horticultural Exposition which was held last week. Members cleaned and spruced up their plants and flowers that they had been growing all year in the greenhouse, and we had 11 respectable entries for the competition. Some of the members decided they wanted to give the Floral Design CDE a go and even though they had no formal training, they spent a month practicing. They came in last, but they gave it a good shot and enjoyed themselves. I was proud of them just for stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying something new. While we may not have been winners at floral design, we were winners when it came to our plants and flowers! The members took 1st and 3rd in the flowering bulbs class and 1st and 2nd in the geranium class. Our chapter has never won anything (except for the FFA Week Award) at a CDE before, so this was HUGE for our chapter and our school! The plants and their ribbons/plaques have been on display in our school all week, and the look of pride on the members' faces as they get to show them off is just amazing. You can check out a video of their big Hort Expo successes here: Animoto - FFA Hort Expo 2013  As a result of the FFA members' growth and progress, our County Board of Ag and Soil Conservation Board sponsored FFA jackets for 4 members, and they will receive them on stage at State Convention. It's taken a few years, but our chapter is on the move and now that the members have had their first real taste of success, they are hungry for more!

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Our greenhouse is also (finally) almost done being renovated! Most of the new benches are in, and all of the plants are happy and healthy now that they aren't sitting on the floor. Planting for the spring plant sale starts in 2 weeks, and the bulbs that we've planted over the past few weeks are flowering like crazy! We also got our very first hydroponics system up and running yesterday! It's tiny, but it works, so we will see how our plants do with it!

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In other program news, the articulation agreement with Delaware Valley College in PA is in the hands of the state DOE for final approval, so fingers crossed that all goes well! We are also in the process of articulating with 2 other major ag schools in our region (one of them being my alma mater!) and if all goes well, we will have agreements in place with them by the end of the school year. The program was also recognized with an Essex County Teamwork Award from our county executive as a result of our successful partnerships with our county parks. All in all, it's been a great month!

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Spring may only just be beginning, but things are blooming and booming here both in the greenhouse and in terms of FFA, program, and student success! The next few months should be exciting with Spring CDEs, the FFA Plant Sale, and State Convention coming up. However, I promise to be more diligent about blogging now that all the paperwork is done and submitted. Look for s'Morey soon and enjoy the fact that spring has finally sprung!

 

TM

IMG_4238.JPGSometimes you have to provide a little context.

 

Last year an opportunity for state funds to strengthen college credit came around, and it came to pass that we heard about this contraption out of Australia being used for artificial insemination instruction.  Since one of the challenges  we find with classes-too-big and cattle-too-few is being able to get kids elbow deep into cows (serious Animal Lab envy here) this seemed like a potential solution.  A few phone calls later and we had a consortium of schools together, and we had the funds to order this AI instruction model.

 

Her name is Betsy.  The Breed'n Betsy.

 

You can imagine the steps one might have to go through to order an AI dummy from down under.  Interested in your own Breed'n Betsy?  Just follow these easy steps:

 

1)  Go to your administrators and explain what you want permission to turn in a grant for.

2)  Explain what an AI instructional model is.

IMG_4240.JPG3)  Explain AI (actually I didn't have to do this, my principal is pretty ag-saavy. I'm just anticipating).

4)  Send your principal to a district admin meeting where he has to ask the superintendent for a signature on a grant for a $14,000 grant for an "AI breeding dummy" in front of all the other administrators (not making this up folks)

5)  Submit grant.  Be one of only a handful of applications.  Get more money than you were qualified for.

6)  Contact Australia.  Ask for a Breed'n Betsy, Bovine Repro package 3 (if horses are your thing, there is also Bonny).

7)  Be the first person in your school district to talk your business manager into wiring money to Australia.

8)  Be the last person in your school district to talk your business manager into wiring money to Australia.

9)  Get a phone call back over a bad international connection at 6am local from a really nice guy named Brad with more brogue than a Dublin pub.  Decipher slowly.

10)  Wait a smoko or two for manufacturing, etc and then await your Betsy's completion.

11)  Get the email letting you know that your Breed'n Betsy has shipped.

12)  Use Fedex's website to track that Betsy has traveled around much of the greater continent of Asia.

13)  Attend the NAAE National Convention in Atlanta where you receive a phone call from Homeland Security re:  your 'large shipment' you are importing into the country.

14)  When asked, tell them it's an "educational model" because you really, really don't want to go there on the phone with Homeland Security.

15)  File paperwork with Homeland Security to allow Betsy into the country while she waits patiently in Anchorage, Alaska for three days.

16)  Finally receive your Breed'n Betsy.  Some assembly required.

 

So there you go.  I really do wish I was making up some of those steps, but alas, no.  While the hurdles piled up faster than in an old track shed we persevered, kept calm and carried on. But now here we are, with a complete mobile reproductive lab that is currently being shared and coordinated between six of our local ag programs.  We're looking forward to using Betsy to expand access to such skill for suburban students within our programs, and strengthen our college-credit agreements with our community college partners.  And as we continue to use her we'll induct a few more capable kids into the Order of the Blue Glove.

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Some new inductees for 2013.  Team Motto:  Elbow deep.  Ask sometime for the secret handshake.

 

More pics?   Check out the parade of facial expressions (although nothing beats the real south end of a north-facing heifer) here!

 

What sort of trials and tribulations have you overcome to make things happen for your students?

Jessie Lumpkins

Calling Turkeys In

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Mar 13, 2013

Today as I print out an exit surveys for our most recent field trip, I remembered that I had not yet shared our adventure to the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in Nashville. Page High School is located about 40 minutes south of the famous Opryland Hotel, where the convention is held each year.

 

The magic of this trip was that it was coordinated in only 5 days. The director Ms. Rolka sent Tennessee FFA advisors a notification that there was a large cancellation in their Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience  that focused on careers in the wildlife and natural resources industry. This area is big with my students; we placed 2nd in the state last year in the Environmental and Natural Resources CDE and will add a Wildlife Management class to our current Animal Science pathway next year (it's already full!) The trip, lunch and a bag of goodys would be free for any students we could get to attend. In addition, my sub day and the bus would be paid for! On a whim I asked my principal the next morning if she thought we could swing it, and she and my bookkeeper helped me get us to the event 4 days later. I asked seniors and juniors first since it was focused around careers, but I had a few extra spots and let two freshman attend who took initiative and came to me about the trip.

 

A day before we left, my students wanted to hear the list of experts.

(Me - Students)

"Tom Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service." - "Cool, cool."

"Joe Murfin, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Daisy Outdoor Products." - "Awesome."

"Kristen Giger, Project Biologist, National Wild Turkey Federation." - "Gotta love NWTF."

"Cuz Strictland, Outdoor TV Show, Mossy Oak Camouflage." - "I know who that is! I love Mossy Oak."

"Michael Waddell, Outdoor TV Show Host, Business Owner, Celebrity, Realtree Road Trips." - COMMENCE STUDENT FREAK-OUT. Seriously! The excitement after I read that line went from pumped to barely containing themselves.

 

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The entire panel was very helpful when it came to giving students a direction in the outdoor industry that would help them consider post-secondary options, and how to be a good employee in general. After hearing from the experts, Michael Waddell stayed for at least an hour talking with students individually and signing autographs, giving them advice and reminding them that he started in their shoes.

 

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We had pizza for lunch then made our way to The Roost. This was the area of the convention that had fun booths with lots of hands-on games and experiences, and celebrities like Turtle Man (Live Action!). The best part? There was a live owl. As the people in front of me parted and it's little ear tufts came into view, I audibly gasped. Most of you probably realize that ag teachers/FFA advisors are often associated with owls, but I am truly obsessed. I own probably thousands of owls and owl-related items, but that's a post for another day.

 

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As I called my gang of turkeys in so we could load the bus and get home, they were excited to tell me everything they saw in The Roost and about how it was the best field trip they had ever taken. It was a great day!

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