Today I took a field trip with my middle schoolers, and it occurred to me that I haven't really talked about my adventures in teaching this younger age group of ag students. Robin McLean told me for years how much fun it was, and I always thought it would be something I'd like to try. Now that I've had the chance to teach them for several months now, I've realized that she is exactly right and they are tons of fun to work with!
Some of my marvelous middle school ag students.
Prior to my becoming a 7th-12th grade ag teacher in September, I had very little experience with middle schoolers. In fact, the last time I had spent any amount of time with middle schoolers was when I was a student in middle school. Sure, I had spent time with Robin and her students at FFA events, but I had never taught or even observed a middle school ag class. However, instead of being nervous about teaching an unfamiliar age group, I looked at it as a fun challenge.
My attitude on teaching middle schoolers for the first time.
From the moment I met my first rotations of 7th and 8th grade ag, I knew I was hooked on teaching middle school ag. Their eagerness to learn and try new things was a refreshing change from the attitudes that high school students sometimes have. They loved learning about ag and FFA, and were always eager to please. The middle school FFA chapter quickly gained 10 new members, and we had a great showing at our first CDE.
Trying out a cool new soil data app on the iPads.
Now that I've been at this for a few months and am in my 2nd and 3rd rotations of my classes, my love for teaching middle school ag has only grown. While not every student is a delight all the time, overall they are a very rewarding group of students to work with. They ask great (and sometimes not so great) questions, and seem to take pride in their work. I've been challenging them with activities from CASE AFNR and every time I think that it might be too hard for them, they amaze me and do something fantastic with the lab or project they are working on. I regularly have students from former rotations stop in to say "hi" and I make it a point to visit them during lunch at least once a week.
Getting the "dirt" on what's in soil.
To me, offering middle school ag is critically important to the future of ag education. By "hooking" them young, and giving them a firm foundation of ag and FFA concepts, they are better prepared to be stellar ag students and FFA members in high school. They learn the importance of teamwork and leadership at an early age, and are able to spend more years learning the ag science skills needed for a future career in agriculture. They also have more time to develop an SAE and their resumes, which can lead to them finding internships and scholarships in high school. But, the most important thing about middle school ag is that it serves as a type of "Insurance" for getting students in high school ag classes and keeping programs open. As long as we can get them interested in ag education and FFA at the middle school level, it is more likely that they will continue their studies in high school. They help keep the numbers in ag classes up and make it more likely that our programs will be around for years to come.
Future ag scientist in the making!
Even though teaching middle school is awesome, I still LOVE teaching high school ag the most. However, teaching middle school has given me new purpose to when it comes to being a better ag teacher. It's reinvigorated my desire to continually provide high quality ag education to my students and to make what I teach as innovative and relevant to the real world as possible. If I can do these things, my students will have the opportunity to have a wonderful ag ed and FFA experience from day 1. Hope everyone is have a great new year so far. Make it the best one yet, and be the best ag teacher you can be! Look for S'Morey soon!