If you're considering adding a CASE course to your agricultural education program next year, now is the time to register for a CASE Institute.
These 50 to 100-hour intensive professional developments are held mostly in June and July at a variety of locations across the United States. Completion of an institute is the only way a teacher can become certified to use the CASE curriculum, but according to CASE certified teachers, participants come away with much more than a set of lessons.
"The value of going through a year's worth of curriculum with other ag teacher - I don't know how you replicate an experience like that," said Andrew Boserma, who teaches agriculture at Sunshine Bible Academy in South Dakota. His school, the only private school in South Dakota with an agriculture program, was looking to expand agriculture course offerings, so Boserma turned to CASE.
Registration for 2016 CASE Institutes opened December 1, and institutes are filling quickly.
CASE Institute Scholarships - due February 28
One of the Boserma's takeaways from the institute was the sense of community with all the participants, even the Lead Teachers, who facilitate the experience. "As a young teacher, I was surprised at the openness, the willingness of everyone to learn, including the facilitators. It wasn't like you go there and the Lead Teachers lecture at you for eight hours a day. We really all collaborate on how we can do this better in our own classrooms."
"CASE institutes are regionally located, and spread out (across the United States) by course. Whether you live in the northwest, Midwest, or anywhere, there are a good variety," said Shari Smith, CASE Professional Development Director. "One of the beauties of a CASE institute in another state is that you get to broaden your professional network, meet urban teachers, rural teachers - people with different teaching backgrounds."
Registration for CASE institutes opened December 1, and will remain open until around May 1, but Smith cautions people not to wait. "Registrations are really done on an institute-by-institute basis," she said, "and some institutes are already full." There are a few opportunities for pre-service teachers to attend institutes as well.
Finding Funds to Attend
There are limited opportunities for institutes scholarships available through CASE, but Smith said many teachers find local sources to offset the cost of attending an institute. Alumni groups or local agribusinesses might lend their support. Another place to check is your school's CTE board or the professional development portion of your Perkins funds, depending on your school's situation.
Dale Cruzan teaches agriculture at Allentown High School in Allentown, New Jersey. He has attended four CASE institutes, and is currently teaching CASE Animal and Plant Biotechnology and CASE Food Science and Safety, the two specialization courses in CASE's Animal Science and Plant Science pathways.
Cruzan finds that CASE engages his students because it's more about the learning process, rather than getting the right or wrong answer immediately. That can be frustrating for learners who are used to looking for the right answer, because sometimes there can be more than one. "The curriculum can be challenging to students and teachers at times, but it is beneficial," he said. "My students learn, often without realizing it. CASE gives our program a feather in our cap."
For more information about CASE and the 2016 CASE Institutes, visit case4learning.org.
Scenes from 2015 CASE Institutes around the United States
photos: Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education