Saturday, November 9, 2013

And the Labs Begin!

After much preparation and anticipation, we have reached the point of the year where investigation, discovery, and experiments will be the norm for both CASE Introduction to AFNR and CASE Animal Science courses.

Students in Intro to AFNR (5th period)
brainstorm topics for their group project.  This
group decided to investigate Small Animal
Care & Management careers.
In Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR), students have just finished up their unit on communications.  Students learned about the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication, written communication, and professional interactions with peers, adults, and community leaders.  Highlights of the unit included presenting a 3-minute speech on your favorite things in agriculture, learning a proper handshake, and participating in a mock meeting to learn the basics of parliamentary procedure.  The unit concluded with Project 2.2.3 "Teaming Up" where students were put to the test to work with their peers to research the educational needs of jobs in production agriculture.  Groups researched topics from the dairy industry to aquaculture and found many interesting career opportunities and post-secondary institutions where further education can be gained.
Can you identify any equipment pictured here?
After Activity 3.1.1., all students in Intro to
AFNR can identify all pieces of equipment
with 100% accuracy!

What's up next for Intro to AFNR you may ask? Well, it's finally time to jump into Unit 3: The Science of Agriculture! Students will begin to learn the basics of lab safety within the Agricultural Science lab and become acquainted with high-tech equipment that will be used throughout the duration of their high school career.  Beginning next week, students will begin Activity 3.1.1. "Measure Me."

Students observe the
movement of meal worms
in Part 1 of the experiment.
One group's experimental design
tested if meal worms were drawn
to soil, grass, meal worm nutrient,
or an acidic solution. What is your
prediction? Why?
Meanwhile in CASE Animal Science, students have been conducting their first laboratory experiment that they got to design! How awesome is it to design and conduct your own experiment? After learning about an animal's response to it's environment through an observational lab, students got the chance to design an experiment that tested the response of meal worms to a change in their environment during Activity 3.2.1. "Response to Environment." Students had to have their research procedures approved by the instructor prior to setting up the experiment and collecting data.  Groups selected changing variables such as color of the desk (red versus black), acidic or basic conditions, lightness or dark, and the bedding material surrounding the meal worms to see how they responded to a change in their environment.  At the conclusion of the experiment, students had to graph their results and share them with the class to compare and contrast the results and trends.

Another group observes their experiment
that tested the hypothesis that mealworms
were drawn to an acidic solution.
One example of the growth observed in a
petri dish over 7 days.
 In addition, students learned about the importance of biosecurity by culturing dirty work books, door handles, and saliva samples to replicate a 'breach of biosecurity' on a farm.  Students observed the growth within their petri dishes to determine which scenario caused the most bacterial growth and posed the biggest risk to their livestock in Activity 3.3.2. "Biosecurity--Managing Risk."  

Stay tuned for more exciting classroom investigations into the "Science of Agriculture!"

To follow more adventures of the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science program and FFA chapter, please visit and  Follow the chapter on Twitter with the handle @CV_FFA.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

End of September Scenery

It's tough to believe that September has come and gone already at CVHS!  The last week of September was especially busy with 3 FFA events taking place alongside a normal teaching schedule.  Let's take a look at the action!

Students enrolled in "Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources" began to dive into a communications unit that taught about the importance of verbal, non-verbal, and written communication.  One of the first activities done as a class was Activity 2.2.2. Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil.  Students worked together on a beautiful day to create shapes with string without seeing or talking.  Groups had to create a perfect square, octagon, and 5-pointed star while being blindfolded but allowed to speak, with sight but allowed to speak, or while speaking with sight! It proved to be a challenge for these 1st-year Ag students to learn about the importance of teamwork.

Students decide how to make a 5-pointed star while
being able to speak with their blindfolds removed.

Another group brainstorms how to make an octagon
with their string.  Students enjoyed the challenge
of working with their peers outside the classroom.

Another highlight of Intro to AFNR was completing Activity 2.1.1. Communication Charades where a competition evolved between 5 competitive groups as to which group could guess the charade in the shortest time.  Aditionally, Activity 2.1.2. Speak from the Heart gave students a chance to practice their ability to emphasize words while reading from a popular children's book before each student gave their own  speech about their 3 favorite agricultural items.  This unit has been a great help to prepare students for public speaking and interactions with others outside the classroom.

On Tuesday, October 1st, 9 students from CV FFA attended the Fall Leadership Conference hosted by the PA FFA State Association and the 2014 Penn State Student Teachers.  The first-year members attended FFA stations to learn about the history of FFA, conferences, and how to get more involved in the organization.  Chapter Officers attended a specific workshop to learn about their duties within the chapter.  After lunch, students combined together for a workshop about the Washington Leadership Conference and the true meaning of community service.

WLC Workshop at the Fall Leadership Conference
 exchanging community service ideas via a 'Balloon Pop.'

Group photo from 2013 Fall Leadership Conference.
Front Row: P. Smith, A. Pauletta, J. Robinson, A. Klinger.
Back Row: CV FFA Reporter A. Emig, CV FFA President L. Shatto, N. Hirsch,
CV FFA Secretary M. Yorlets, and CV FFA Sentinel S. Christie.
The final event for the week was the 39th Annual Stockman's Contest at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Harrisburg, PA.  CV FFA was represented by 3 teams of students in grades 10-12.

Nate (Purple shirt) evaluates
4 cuts of meat during the
Meat Judging Class.
Makenzie does her best
to answer questions
about quality assurance.
During the contest, FFA members placed classes of beef heifers, market swine, market lambs, and a meats class.  In addition, they identified breeds of livestock, common equipment, and feed samples while also answering questions about quality assurance, current legislation surrounding livestock production, and health care.  With nearly 400 students in attendance from several states, this contest was a great experience to learn more about the beef, sheep, and swine industries while getting a chance to walk around the KILE expo and interact with some of the most elite livestock breeders on the East Coast.

CV FFA members pose after the KILE Stockman's Contest.
Front Row: C. Murlatt, K. Paulus, A. Emig, E. Goodhart.
Back Row: N. Crain, Z. Phillips, W. Williams, N. Short, and M. Yorlets.
To follow more adventures of the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science program and FFA chapter, please visit and  Follow the chapter on Twitter with the handle @CV_FFA.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Catching up on the CV Ag Science Action!

 Since my last post, many exciting events have gone on both inside and outside of the classroom! Let's jump back to the All-American to begin this recap...

Group photo from the All-American.
2nd place Dairy Management
After preparing a Dairy Management Team and a Dairy Judging Team to compete at the 50th All-American Dairy Show in their respective contests, the day had arrived to travel to Harrisburg for this milestone event.  The Dairy Judging Team judged 4 excellent classes of high-caliber cattle while the Dairy Management Team evaluated a class of cattle, interpreted DHIA benchmarks, identified common feedstuffs, and analyzed financial records.  When the dust settled, the Dairy Management Team placed 2nd in the FFA division and the Dairy Judging team members placed in the middle of the pack in their contest.  

Can you identify which feedstuff
has the highest source of rumen
digestible protein? This was one
of the stations during the Dairy
Management Contest.
Meanwhile, back in the classroom, students in Growing our Agricultural Leaders (GOAL) were busy planning the 2nd annual YOLO (Youth Overnight Leadership Operation) that is being hosted by CV FFA.  This 'lock-in' type event is aimed to be a recruitment event for new FFA members to give them a taste of the organization and to meet the upperclassmen within the chapter.

Students in CASE Animal Science began Unit 2 which investigated the classification of animals.  Several activities and projects allowed students to explore the scientific classification of a chosen animal that they will use for their Producer's Management Guide, which is a year-long project that will be completed piece by piece throughout the school year.  Another project included creating a dichotomous key to classify 10 breeds of livestock--quite a challenge, but the students stepped up and completed the task with precision and accuracy.

Student project from Activity 2.2.2
"Creature Classification."
In CASE Introduction to Ag, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR), students continued to learn about the 3 circles of Agriculture Education, specifically the FFA organization.  Students investigated the components of FFA Official Dress, gained knowledge in FFA history, and successfully completed portions of 10 CDE (Career Development Event) stations to get a feel for what competitions exist at the local, state, and national levels.  In addition, these students also successfully started their first SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience) for their time in Intro to AFNR.  Students are currently learning about how to begin an SAE within their interests outside of class time.  Some SAE ideas from students were raising quail, home improvement projects, and shadowing a veterinary technician! It will be awesome to see how these individual SAEs develop over the course of the year.

Project 2.2.3. Key to Breeds.
Students created a
dichotomous key to identify
10 breeds of dairy, beef,
sheep, swine, and goats.

And what would a week be without wrangling some sheep and alpacas for a petting zoo at a football game?  With the help of some dedicated FFA members, CV FFA hosted a farm animal education area as part of CV THON's tailgate before the home football game.  Sadie the sheep enjoyed her change of scenery while being transported to the event!

Sadie the sheep gets to
ride in style on the way to
the 'big show.'
Some highlights of the upcoming week include training the Agricultural Issues team for National Convention, preparing students for the Stockman's Contest at the Keystone International Livestock Expo, and continuing discussions surrounding animal welfare and animal rights in CASE Animal Science.  Several lively and thought-provoking discussions have taken place thus far and each day, students become more and more engaged in this unit that is focused on developing questioning skills and understanding personal opinions.

To follow more adventures of the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science program and FFA chapter, please and  Follow the chapter on Twitter with the handle @CV_FFA.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

From Tomato Fields to the All-American...a Week to Remember!

Only 2 weeks into the school year, students enrolled in the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Education program can make a lengthy list of learning experiences that are opening their eyes to the world of agriculture!

Agriculture Education has
3 components that are critical
to a successful and
sustainable program.
The week began with students enrolled in Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) enjoying a presentation from several CV FFA Officers about the endless opportunities available to them as FFA members.  As a student enrolled in an agriculture class, they are automatically members of the CV FFA chapter and all were encouraged to seek more information about chapter events such as YOLO, A-Day, and the Hunger Banquet.  On Wednesday & Thursday, the Intro to AFNR set up their first SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience).  To gain skills and knowledge of record-keeping, each student will keep accurate records of their classroom learning and any agriculture activities completed outside the classroom.  Students will also be encouraged to establish an SAE outside of school to complement their career interests.  For more about SAEs, please visit this website.

A student working on creating a timeline.
Meanwhile, students enrolled in Animal Science started to learn concepts about animal domestication and how the uses of animals has changed over the past 5,000 years.  Students worked in groups of 3 to create a timeline project that was shared with other members of the class.  Animals researched included cattle, swine, dogs, cats, sheep, horses, and goats.  Students utilized their creativity to construct a timeline and associated 'fun facts' about their specie.
One group with their finished timeline
about sheep!

Friday proved to be quite a busy day, but ran smoothly due to enthusiastic students that worked hard to accomplish several endeavors.  Students in Introduction to AFNR got a chance to learn about the Hunger Garden at CV while harvesting over 1,000 tomatoes in a friendly competition.

Students were excited to take part in this project and are looking forward to more ways to get involved next spring!  

Students hard at work scouting ripe
tomatoes in the CV Hunger Garden.
Directly after school, 5 students traveled to the All-American Dairy Show to set up photo displays for the world-class cattle that will be competing in Harrisburg this week.  After setting up the floral displays with over 125 chrysanthemums and checking for final details, the group returned to CV for the first home football game of the year. The infamous "Farm Show Milkshakes" were being sold at the game as a fundraiser for the CV FFA chapter.  With a slow start, the demand for these popular items quickly escalated and over 900 milkshakes were sold before running out of materials!

One of 4 photo displays at the
All-American Dairy Show.

Although it was quite a busy week, the excitement and learning will continue next week as 8 students will compete at the All-American Dairy Show in the Dairy Judging Forum and the Dairy Management Contest. Students enrolled in "Growing our Agricultural Leaders (GOAL)" will investigate how a Golden Buddha and a Thermometer relate to their leadership development while Intro to AFNR will learn about numerous CDEs (Career Development Event) available through the National FFA Organization.  Animal Science students can look forward to an edible activity that introduces them to taxonomy and students enrolled in the SAE course will begin to reflect on how to improve their SAE through a tuning protocol.

Great things are happening at CV Agricultural Sciences! Stay tuned for more updates!


 To follow more adventures of the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science program and FFA chapter, please and  Follow the chapter on Twitter with the handle @CV_FFA. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week 1--What a Whirlwind!

I’ve always heard the saying, “Time flies when you are having fun,” but the first week of the school year truly was over before it began.  After preparing my classroom, planning, and anxiously (and excitedly waiting), the first day of school finally arrived.  It was an excellent week to begin a new year of Agriculture Education at Cumberland Valley!

Rather than ‘taking it easy’ during the first week, I wanted to welcome students into an active classroom where learning happens through hands-on interactions and student-centered activities.  Students enrolled in CASE Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) began investigations into the origins of agriculture and how this vast industry affects every person every day.  The week began with an active ‘trading game’ where students were randomly assigned food, shelter, and clothing items that could be traded with other groups in order for their group to ‘survive.’ Bringing things closer to home, students later worked in pairs to research common commodities grown across the United States.

Meanwhile, their peers in Growing our Agriculture Leaders (GOAL) began to analyze their style of leadership, the 4 stages of personal development, and the 4 steps to developing as an aspiring agriculture leader.  Students reflected upon their strengths, areas of improvement, and goals as an individual.  This is only the beginning of a reflective path that these young leaders will embark on throughout the year as they experience challenges, successes, and obstacles while leading their peers.

As the week came to a close, the process of planning, revising, and reflecting continued on my part as an instructor & FFA advisor.  Major goals for next week’s classes include introducing nearly 50 students to the online AET (Agriculture Experience Tracker) system so they can track their agricultural experiences and hosting practice sessions to prepare for the Junior Dairy Management Contest & Dairy Judging Forum at the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, PA.  It promises to be another exciting week in the Agriculture Department!

To follow more adventures of the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science program and FFA chapter, please visit and  Follow the chapter on Twitter with the handle @CV_FFA. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Prepping for Year 1

It's official! With a signed contract, teaching schedule, and a snazzy staff ID, I'm ready to embark on my agriculture teaching career in a 2-teacher department at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, PA.  After a stressful summer filled with interviews, rejections, and some professional development conferences, I am breathing much easier knowing that I am very fortunate to have secured a teaching position in Pennsylvania.

And now the work (and fun) begins! Here's a quick glance at the courses I'll be teaching this fall:

Ag Leadership
CASE Intro to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (2 sections)
CASE Animal Science (2 sections)
Agriculture Experience (SAE)

I'm very thankful to have gone through a CASE institute this summer as it will allow my first year teaching to run smoothly and have a great chunk of lesson planning completed.

My goals for Year 1 of teaching:

  • Survive & Thrive!
  • Deliver engaging, relevant, and progressive lessons in each course to prepare students for future employment or post-secondary education
  • Become familiar with CV Ag Science traditions, stakeholders, and student needs
  • Train 1 CDE team to compete at State Level
  • Successfully implement AET record-keeping with 2 Freshman sections of AFNR 

I am very thankful for the support that I've received so far from my co-teacher, CV administration, and the other Agriculture teachers in Cumberland County.  I'm blessed to have the help and support of these individuals and can't wait to begin my journey to make a difference!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wrapping up the CASE!

It's hard to imagine how quickly my first CASE institute has gone and how much can be accomplished in such a short time.  However, in Agriculture Education, anything is possible.

Working with my partner, Neil, to analyze a water sample
utilizing a Labquest and various measuring instruments
such as pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity sensors.
Looking back at the photos from each day, I can recall the collaboration, teamwork, and camaraderie that developed between 21 Agriculture Educators from 7 states and I look forward to how the CASE curriculum will transform the learning environment in my future classroom.  I watched as my colleagues and I would become students and question the "How, Why, and What" of each activity, project, and problem.  This reassured me that the students will be equally engaged and will hopefully become an active learner that develops the ability to inquire, ask questions, and solve problems.  Sounds a lot like 21st-century skills right?  As our lead teachers, Matt Eddy and Lindsay Davie, kept repeating all week, "CASE answers that."

Practicing the proper technique to measure mass on a
digital scale during the first few days of the CASE institute.
This curriculum invigorates the traditional learning environment and turns responsibility over to the students who apply Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical (STEM) principles to current agricultural issues.  Who has an answer for world hunger?  At the conclusion of the CASE Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources course, students will have gained a foundation in knowledge and be prepared to give their solution to world hunger.  The sky's the limit after experiencing this course!

Successful completion
of "Build-a-Bloom!"
I was able to attend this CASE institute through the generosity of Impact FFA, a group that sponsored a scholarship for a female, pre-service teacher that was a member of NAAE (National Association of Agriculture Educators).  I feel humbled to have been awarded a scholarship of this magnitude so early in my teaching career and encourage this organization to continue supporting future female pre-service teachers in the future.  To learn more about the ripple-effect created by Impact FFA, please visit  

Although my first CASE institute is in the books, I have begun to reflect on how this experience will help me rethink classroom instruction to benefit students in developing their critical-thinking skills and being prepared to tackle the most important challenges in the future.  As I've been told, everyday is a learning experience and I look forward to what is coming around the corner next!


The #PSUCASE13 crew!

 It was such a pleasure getting to know Agriculture Educators from across the country during this institute!  Whether it was enjoying a fantastic meal along the Susquehanna River or talking about their agriculture program, it was a great bunch of individuals to work with throughout the 10-day experience.

A huge "Thank You" to our lead teachers, Lindsay Davie and Matt Eddy, for sharing your experience with the CASE curriculum and giving us tricks and hints to help improve our implementation of CASE.

Finally, "Thank You" to Cumberland Valley H.S. & Penn State University for hosting this institute.  It was excellent to learn the curriculum in a school that has adopted the CASE curriculum and experience it in a 'real' learning environment. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CASE AFNR Days 5, 6, & 7: Lions & Tigers & Elodea! Oh my!

Well, maybe there weren't any lions or tigers at the AFNR CASE institute over the past few days, but there was plenty to learn about animals and plants alike!

As we reached the midpoint of the institute, we dove into many scientific applications of plant & animal science through various hands-on experiments. Here are a few photos of what we have been investigating over the past few days.

Each group created a poster to explain the flora (plants), fauna (animals),  location,  and major characteristics of any biome within the United States.  Where do you think a grassland would be located? What biome do you live in? 

The name of this experiment was "Passing Gas."   If that doesn't catch your students' attention, I don't know what else will!  Utilizing lots of Elodea and a few snails, we set up an experiment to measure the pH and dissolved oxygen levels.  Which organism would lower the pH of the water? The dissolved oxygen level?  Justify your hypothesis using the formula for photosynthesis and respiration.  The results are quite gaseous!

What happens to the rate of photosynthesis in a plant that hasn't seen sunlight in a week? Utilizing some boiling isopropyl alcohol to boil a few plant leaves and adding Lugol's solution, we found out quickly!  

And last, but not least, build-a-bloom! How many times have you had students label a diagram on a piece of paper? This activity allows students to be creative and build their own flower model utilizing a few crafty items then labeling the 3-D model.  Can you recognize any of the parts of a flower? Is this flower complete or incomplete? Your students could answer these questions after building their own flower.
The 10-day institute is quickly winding down with more and more homework assignments being completed and checked each day.  In order to receive their CASE certification, teachers participating in the workshop must complete a portfolio of assignments that are checked by the lead teachers.  These assignments will serve as samples of work to students during the first year of instruction for the AFNR curriculum.  

Each day, more collaboration, energy, and enthusiasm is evident between participants talking about extension activities, modifications, and how CASE will look in their classroom this fall.  It is hard to believe how quickly this time has gone and how the institute has created such a positive momentum for Agricultural Science Education and challenged everyone to expand their repertoire of tools for the classroom!

Stay tuned for the final installments of CASE AFNR 2013!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

CASE AFNR Day 4: Earth, Wind, & Fire! (And Water!)

Ok, maybe not so much on the Wind & Fire, but today's CASE AFNR curriculum focused on several environmental issues dealing with water and soil conservation.  Today was the perfect day for hands-on learning at its finest!

This activity aimed to replicate the effects of
rainfall on soil.  After 3 "rainstorms, we
evaluated our streambed for damage.
In the morning session, I explored the world of water and soil with my fearless lab partners Mackenzie and Greg while rotating through 7 lab experiment stations.  We explored topics of porosity, erosion, and soil classification all while learning from each other.  We walked away from many labs with dirty hands but a sense of accomplishment knowing that these lab experiences will increase the rigor and relevance of our classroom instruction.

Water, water, everywhere...but not a drop to drink.  The afternoon session was all about water and exploring the numerous tests that can be performed on a sample of water.  We tested out Labquest equipment that could measure the temperature, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and total dissolved solids of any liquid sample.  With some patience and a bit of instruction interpretation, we maneuvered through the exercises learning more about a sample of water than we thought was possible!

We also investigated
the effects of topography on
runoff utilizing this plastic
Taking a step back and reflecting upon the rigor of this lab exercise, I quickly realized that I hadn't encountered much of this equipment until upper-level college courses (or even at all during my college education).  How awesome will it be that Freshmen students in high school will be exposed to this highly-technical equipment before they even graduate?  The power of this science-based agriculture curriculum will set up my students for success as they enter post-secondary education or the workforce.

The day concluded with the participants working through the task of creating their own lab procedure (an excellent inquiry-based activity that stretches students to synthesize a procedure from their past lab experiences and evaluate the validity of their experimental design).  Although a tough challenge to end the day, all lab groups worked efficiently to complete the inquiry-based activity!

Stay tuned for Friday's adventures before a well-deserved weekend break!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CASE AFNR Days 2 & 3: And the Science Begins!

A DNA sequence after successful
After diving right into our homework on Monday night, we knew that Tuesday and Wednesday would be filled with many activities and projects in the laboratory (the portion of the CASE experience that I had been long-anticipating).  During my student-teaching experience, I incorporated hands-on lab sessions, but none as meaningful as the experiments that we were going to conduct.

Here, I am practicing the proper
technique to weight out a substance
on a digital balance.
The day kicked off with laying a foundation in laboratory safety by incorporating a lab equipment 'scavenger hunt' in which participants were given a description of a piece of equipment, then asked to locate it within the lab and then explain the purpose of that item to the class.  Basics of measurement were also introduced via an excellent activity that allowed participants to practice measuring length, mass, volume, and density all within the same lab.

The strawberry DNA slowly
rises to the top off the
separating solution.

Today's session was packed with agriculture science experiments that creatively wove elements of Chemistry & Biology into many aspects of the tasks.  Cells, DNA, and dichotomous keys were the hot topics of the day as the lead teachers did an excellent job of putting new twists on routine Ag. Science lessons.  Utilizing models, new software programs, and some strawberries, participants excitedly participated in this series of experiments.  The energy in the room was contagious and many teachers walked away with many new ideas from collaborating with their lab partners on how they can tweak lessons and improve their other non-CASE courses with the information learned today.
Alex Barzydlo working hard to gather
DNA extracted from a strawberry.

With another exciting day of learning slated for tomorrow, I continue to preview for tomorrow's experiments that focus on Environmental Science.

Don't forget to follow the action in real-time by following #PSUCASE13 on Twitter!


Thanks to K. Weinberger for photographs used in this blog entry!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Making the CASE for Agriculture Education

Today begins a new adventure about taking Agriculture Education to the next level.  For the next 10 days, I will be participating in the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) Institute to become certified the "Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) curriculum.  There are 21 Agriculture Educators from 7 states participating in this CASE institute that is being hosted by Penn State University and Cumberland Valley High School.

CASE is a one-of-a-kind curriculum that shifts the classroom towards student-based learning and inquiry-based instruction where students apply critical thinking skills and problem-solving each and every day in the classroom.  Students are challenged to take control of their learning and become an active member of the learning community.  For many agriculture programs, this curriculum is implemented to increase the rigor and relevance of agricultural science while preparing students for diverse careers in the field of technical agriculture.

Throughout the course of the institute, attendees are given the opportunity to experience the 150+ days of curriculum as a 'student.'  With 8 hours of instruction during the day and homework assignments at night, the institute challenges attendees to become familiar with the numerous activities, problems, and projects around which the curriculum is based.

For more information about the CASE Curriculum and other institutes being offered, visit

To "follow" the action at the PSU/Cumberland Valley CASE Institute, follow the hashtag #PSUCASE13 on Twitter.

More entries to follow! Stay tuned!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

E-Portfolios: The Next Frontier

Throughout the job search process, an applicant learns of many ways to demonstrate their competancy, passion, and desire to become an educator.  In my preparation for upcoming interviews, I decided to take the plunge and dive into the world of E-Portfolios.  But where to start?

Since I had little familiarity with creating a web site, I decided to search for a portfolio-hosting site and happened upon Portfoliogen.  After signing up for a free account, I was off and running!

Much to my surprise, creating this porfolio was a very enjoyable experience on many levels.  First, I was able to reflect upon my educational journey that began in my first education course several years ago.  When looking for documents to upload, I happened upon my first "Philosophy of Education" that I had written in 2009.  After comparing this early edition to my final statement of philosophy that I finished revising at the conclusion of my student teaching, it was evident to me that I had grown as an individual and educator.  The experience of student teaching had allowed me to create a new perspective on how a classroom really works and how to motivate students to succeed.  I find it very beneficial to look back on where I have started in my educational journey and where I am at this point in my educational career.  I would be very interested to see how my philosophy changes after 5, 10, 30+ years of teaching...

Secondly, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to portray my image as an educator on another platform (i.e. the world wide web).  It is fairly simple to collect paper documents and organize them neatly into a binder.  However, organizing one's accomplishments, philosophy, and photo documentation on a web platform is a task that takes practice.  It was a new adventure that I feel will allow me to gain more confidence in maintaining a class website, FFA web page, or a business website.

Over the past few days, I've been finalizing my E-Portfolio and I'm happy to announce it's completion (for now).  Kudos to Portfoliogen for creating such a user-friendly platform to be used by educators to assemble a professional portfolio! 

Please feel free to visit my E-Portfolio at


Monday, May 13, 2013

Field Trip Frenzy--Wind Mill Farm Visit

Agriculture Education has a unique 'hands-on' approach that draws many students to enroll in Agriculture classes.  However, sometimes learning goes beyond the 4 classroom walls and is extended to working businesses, farms, or industry-locations.  This past Friday, I had the pleasure (while serving as Schuylkill County Dairy Princess) to assist at Wind Mill Farm in Pine Grove as 30+ students enrolled in Agriculture Education at Pine Grove H.S. toured the 400-head Brown Swiss herd.

"Ronnie" Daubert demonstrates to a student how
to attach the milking unit to the cow's udder. Several
students took advantage of the opportunity to milk
a cow at Wind Mill Farm. 
Field trips allow students to make a connection between content learned in the classroom and real-life agriculture applications.  Students saw first-hand how cows are milked and even got a chance to try their own hand at milking under the guidance of some experienced farm owners.  This experience alone allowed students to 'learn by doing' and practice some of the skills they had discussed during the Dairy Science unit within their Animal Science course.

Another benefit of field trips is seeing possible agriculture occupations.  In the case of this visit to Wind Mill Farm, students heard how the Daubert family works with nutritionists, equipment salesmen, FSA employees, agriculture engineers, and many more individuals.  There are hundreds of occupations in agriculture that directly support production agriculturists.  Students heard about the value of some of these occupations to pique their interests and direct their future educational decisions.

Finally, this field trip allowed several generations of agriculture enthusiasts to interact and realize the importance of community connections.  Pine Grove Agriculture Education students have been visiting Wind Mill Farm for several years thanks to the support of the Daubert family.  Community members realize the value of having Agriculture Education in public high schools and readily offer support to the program to create valuable experiences for its students.  Many students said they had often driven by dairy farms, but had never seen the inner workings of the farm.  This field trip opened up lines of communication between the students and the farm family which otherwise would not have occurred if not for this field trip.  Agriculture Education is all about partnerships and creating opportunities for students to realize their potential.

Stay tuned for more entries about the power of Agriculture Education!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Banquet Bonanza: Tri-Valley Style

At the conclusion of each school year, many FFA chapters host a Parent/Member Banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of the members and chapter.  The National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) is one segment of an Agriculture Education program.  There are currently over 540,000 FFA members nationwide in over 7, 500 Agriculture Education programs.

On May 3, I had the pleasure of attending my high school chapter’s banquet.  Tri-Valley FFA hosted its 63rd Annual Banquet with over 170 members, parents, and community members in attendance.  I always enjoy attending this banquet since my father was a member of this chapter in addition to my sister.  It was a great feeling to attend and see the next generation of leaders run the banquet program with such confidence and authority. 

The banquet began with the meal and door prize giveaway—a much anticipated tradition at this banquet.  The 2012-2013 Officer Team kicked off the awards portion of the banquet with the much-anticipated Opening Ceremonies.  It was so awesome to see the sense of pride and admiration of these officers as they recited their part much like many members of the audience had done years before.  This is the power of tradition that was evident throughout the banquet.

There were many highlights that followed—29 students receiving their Discovery Degree, 7 Seniors being honored for receiving their Keystone Degree, 3 Honorary Members being recognized for supporting the chapter, and my sister being recognized for being the 7th person from Tri-Valley FFA to receive their American Degree.  Since I received my American Degree last year, we are the first (and only) sibling pair from Tri-Valley FFA to hold their American Degrees at this point in time.

As the banquet came to a close, I felt thankful to have been involved in Agriculture Education during my time as a high school student.  Even though Tri-Valley is a small school district, the Agriculture program has always had unanimous support from the administration and community members alike.  Agriculture Education provides numerous opportunities for students to succeed and prepare themselves for post-secondary education or employment after high school graduation.  Here’s to the next 63 years of successful Agriculture Education at Tri-Valley High School!
Be sure to follow Tri-Valley FFA on Twitter @TriValleyFFA to learn more about the great things going on within this chapter.

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 557,318 student members as part of 7,498 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

Friday, May 3, 2013

You're Student-Teaching Where ?!?!?!??!?!??!!?!?


"You're Student-Teaching Where?!?!?!??!?!?!?!"

IMG_0114.JPG         These were the words spoken by my parents last April when I revealed where I had been placed for my student-teaching internship.  To be honest, I was expecting a more reassuring response from them spoken in a calmer tone.  They were surprised to learn that Milton Hershey School (the world's largest private, residential boarding school located in Hershey, PA) even had an Agriculture Program that was thriving with students from a non-farming background.  This fact, however, is what actually drew me to Milton Hershey School.  Coming from a very rural school district with a thriving Agriculture Education program and active FFA chapter, I knew I wanted to challenge myself and experience the diversity of Agriculture Education during my student-teaching internship.  During the short time that I had the pleasure of teaching at Milton Hershey, I've been fortunate to broaden my understanding of the power of Ag. Ed.  Read on to see some of my realizations and observations.

1. A student does not need to grow up in a rural area or live on a farm to take an interest in agriculture.  Let's face it--less than 2% of the US population is directly involved in production agriculture and that number is decreasing every year.  In order for agriculture to meet the challenges of feeding a growing world, students with a non-agriculture background must be recruited into Agriculture Education.  Even in traditionally rural programs, there are fewer and fewer students that were raised on a farm.  Diversity of an Agriculture Education program will provide new perspectives and new ideas to help create a solid foundation for the future of agriculture.  At Milton Hershey, students take a true interest in the agricultural sciences and eagerly come to class wanting to know more about where their food comes from.
2. Agriculture Education is a successful educational model that can benefit students coming from diverse backgrounds. At Milton Hershey, many students come from various socioeconomic statuses and home-life situations.  When given the option to work at the various Agriculture Facilities at the school (such as the Animal Center, Environmental Center, Spartan Ice Cream Shop, or Horticulture Center), students gain a sense of pride and determination in their work.  Students have something positive to look forward to day after day and find a reason to become committed to a cause.  After speaking to staff, faculty, and students, I have learned that working in an agriculturally-based job has literally turned a student's life around.  This is a great example of the positive influence that Agriculture Education can exert on a student's life.

3. Agriculture Education must evolve to meet the demands of the future.  Coming from my small corner of the world, I was convinced that every Ag Ed program should teach Animal Science and Plant Science because that was "traditional agriculture" and tradition can't be broken.  However, after experiencing a different type of program that needs to meet the demands of a diverse student, I've realized the importance of preparing students for future careers in agriculture.  Content that I learned 6 years ago during my high school career is slowly becoming outdated and "old news" in the world of agriculture.  Agriculture has evolved to become a cutting edge, high-tech industry that is going to require future employees to have a strong foundation in science, chemistry, and physics.  I truly believe that Agriculture Education can meet these demands if programs are proactive rather than reactive when choosing curriculum to be used in the classroom. 

            I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to student-teach in a program that was vastly different than the "traditional" program that I experienced during high school.  I had visited urban and "non-traditional" programs during my education courses, but I didn't understand how each of these programs would function on a daily basis.  Milton Hershey allowed me to internalize the day-to-day operation of a non-traditional program and the steps necessary to create a successful program that meets the needs of an urban student population.   Teaching in a non-traditional program this early in my career has helped to mold my philosophy of teaching and will allow me to enter the teaching profession with a broader understanding of Agriculture Education.


Milton Hershey Moments--A Reflection about my Student Teaching Experience

On my first day of student-teaching at Milton Hershey, I got the best advice for student-teaching from the High School Principal, Mr. Weber.  He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “This experience will fly by—make sure you make an impression each day so you can look back and see what your students have achieved.”  This statement was indeed true throughout my experience and I’m glad I heard these words of wisdom at such a great time during this internship.  With that thought in mind, I will reflect on some of the most ‘impactful’ moments during my time student-teaching at Milton Hershey. 

The most memorable moment during my student-teaching experience was teaching FFA History and the Creed.  To gain the interest and respect of my Freshmen classes, I created an “FFA Jacket Challenge” that would award an FFA Jacket to the first student that stood up in class and recited the entire FFA Creed perfectly.  This announcement spread like wildlife between the rest of the agriculture students and a network of support emerged for the Freshman students vying for their very own FFA Jacket.  Each day, upperclassmen would come to class and ask, “Did anyone recite the Creed today?”  It was amazing to see how one simple challenge created electricity and hype between all the agriculture classes.  After weeks of practicing, 2 brave students accepted my challenge and earned their very own FFA Jacket.  Word spread quickly that 2 students were successful and the same electricity and buzz were evident again in my classes.  During my final week of student-teaching, I presented each student with their freshly-pressed FFA Jackets and saw their eyes light up as they put on their jacket for the first time.  I look forward to seeing the journey that these two young FFA members will embark on over the next 3 years.

Another impactful moment was participating in the 2013 State Legislative Leadership Conference (SLLC) Community Service Project with the FFA members on the trip.  As we first approached our community service site, I was worried that my students were not going to be 100% engaged in the service project.  However, when groups were assigned given tasks, it was my students that took the lead and jumped right into the tasks and quickly befriended FFA members from other chapters.  Words cannot describe how proud I was of my students as they accepted a challenge, developed a plan of action, and worked together to achieve it.  When I asked students at the end of the conference what their favorite portion of the conference was, they quickly responded with the community service project because they got to help someone else in need.  This response made my heart smile because I knew that these students, through Agriculture Education, would leave the classroom as productive, caring, and hard-working members of the agricultural industry.  This experience truly exemplified the “Living to Serve” segment of the FFA motto and gave members a chance to become involved in a project larger than them.

Finally, I watched as students took pride in their Agriculture Education program and spoke to over 200 8th grade students during the annual 8th-Grade CTE Tour.  Students had been preparing for this event for weeks and when the time came, their hard work and persistence had paid off as they created an engaging environment for students and chaperones alike.  The students received many compliments for their work during the tour and did a phenomenal job of representing Agriculture Education.  It was amazing to see how the students had banded together to take pride in their Agriculture program and promote it to other prospective students.  I have never seen a group of young people speak with such confidence and determination to recruit next year’s Freshman class.  It was an awesome feeling to know that I helped the students achieve such success.

In conclusion, I never realized the difference that one person could make in such a short period of time.  I have seen students come to life and find their ‘niche’ in Agriculture Education.  After watching the above accomplishments, I firmly believe that Agriculture Education has the potential to make a positive difference in the lives of each student enrolled in an Agriculture class.  Whether a student finds a new interest in agriculture or gains confidence in Public Speaking, Ag Education provides numerous avenues to make a difference in a young person’s life.  Through my student-teaching experience, I’ve learned that a little effort on the part of the instructor can go a long way to help a student and give them an incentive to achieve.