As I prepare to take my first National FFA Convention trip with my new students in my new school, I reflect on the highlights from past trips. There have been many great tours, sessions, keynote speakers, and award ceremonies that I have attended over my 21 years of teaching. The trips I remember the most though, are the ones that brought out the best in my students. This trip gives FFA advisors an opportunity not many other teachers experience, they take students out of their school and community to a new state for a whole week! The advisors plan many experiences for their students, including educational tours, sessions with exceptional speakers, and workshops that develop their leadership and personal growth. This is all part of the overall experience. However, there are those other creative plans that help students get to know each other on the bus and to show what they have learned at the convention. The advisors I travel with have a lot of fun planning those additional activities that get the students out of their shy personal space and put them in situations where they have to talk to new people, maybe do some acting, dancing or singing, and just have a lot of fun.
Each year, a number of activities are planned to help our students grow. One activity is the "Most Unique Item" contest. The students are challenged to find a unique item to share with the bus on the ride home. A set of rules has been established to keep the game fair and fun. There have been some interesting items over the years, including a chunk of cement, an exhibit plant, autographs, band drum sticks, etc. The advisors vote for the "Most Unique Item" to determine the winner. The prizes vary each year and the competition is fierce. In addition to this contest, the students also have to prepare a presentation of the items they discover or collect at the career expo. The students work in groups or alone and prepare songs, skits, or demonstrations to share what they had picked up at the expo.
One year, we had a demonstration of 101 ways to wear a head band. The presentation was so funny we were all in tears! The students' presentations are evaluated by a panel of guest judges (aka: FFA advisors dressed in disguise, see photo below). The students love to see their advisors transform their personalities to become these guest judges. A third activity is a seat rotation on the bus. The aisle seats have to move three seats forward to sit with a new person and get to know them. Each round, they have to find out new information such as, what is your favorite flavor of ice cream, what are you dressing up as for Halloween, what is your SAE project, etc. After three of four rounds, the students have met quite a few new people on the bus. Each of these experiences helps build the students' confidence, while at the same time providing them with the opportunity to share what they have learned at National FFA Convention. These are the types of activities the students will never forget and make the best National FFA Convention trips!