Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Geting the Dirt on PSU CASE Plant Science 2014

As the summer was winding down, the Center for Professional Personnel Development and the Cumberland Valley Agriculture Department were putting the finishing touches on the plans to host a Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) Summer Institute. The institute hosted this year was Agricultural Science--Plant to complement the previous institutes offered in 2012 (Agricultural Science-Animal) and 2013 (Introduction to AFNR), respectively. With 17 Agriscience teachers from 7 states registered and 2 fantastic lead teachers in place, #case14asp hit the ground running on August 3rd and continued until August 13th.

Clay models created to illustrate the
external and internal anatomy of a
complete flower.
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.

A unique professional development experience in itself, CASE institutes equip teachers with the content they will teach by employing 2 Lead Teachers that guide participants through key Activities, Projects, and Problems that make up the curriculum. Certified CASE teachers have seen the curriculum through a student's eyes and have completed the lab activities and projects firsthand to lead their classes with confidence through the new content. Rather than leaving with a binder full of worksheets, answer keys and video clips, teachers are prepared to develop an engaging classroom environment and lead students in inquiry-based lessons.

Lab exercises utilizing  Labquest interfaces
 and sensors increased the rigor of the
Plant Science course. Here, 2 participants are
measuring the turgor pressure within a leaf stem.
New this year to the CASE arsenal is CASE Online, a resource available to certified CASE teachers. This system provides students and teachers an online method to communicate while completing coursework and share course assignments and assessments. End-of-course assessments and review question banks are now available through this platform for teachers already implementing CASE curriculum.

In addition to learning the curriculum and about available resources, CASE workshops are an excellent opportunity for new and beginning teachers to gain "tricks of the trade" from experienced lead teachers and colleagues with years of teaching under their belt. During several lab activities, participants would volunteer their expertise and provide value-added classroom extension projects that were successful in their past classes. This professional collaboration is often a driving factor in motivating teachers to return to CASE institutes each summer to increase the rigor and relevance of their classes and prepare students for employment in the 21st century food and fiber industry.

Although the end of the institute came way too quickly, the friendships, partnerships, and camaraderie developed at this institute will continue to grow as the 17 certified CASE teachers will communicate throughout the school year and work together through classroom challenges. I look forward to see how my fellow participants will implement CASE in their classrooms this upcoming year and how many students will be impacted through the CASE program into the future.

For more information on available CASE curriculum, CASE Online, and upcoming CASE pilot courses, please visit www.case4learning.org.

17  newly certified Agriscience Teachers from 7 states ready to implement
CASE Agricultural Science-Plant into their classrooms this fall!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reflection of Year 1

After a CrAzY spring semester, I am happy to say that I am no longer a 1st year teacher! Although the first year was challenging, I can look back and know that I’ve grown in my ability to develop student potential for success in the classroom, through FFA events, and in their various SAE projects.
Group photo from Mid-Winter Convention
Harrisburg, PA
The spring semester finished with many highlights that required the chapter to pull together and produce some great agricultural programming.

A major highlight was visiting West Virginia on our Educational Spring Trip. With a stop at President Eisenhower’s Farm in Gettsyburg, a tour of West Virginia University’s Agricultural Research Farms, and a little ziplining thrown in there, 27 members got a chance to wind down before Easter and learn more about regional agriculture and post-secondary educational opportunities.
27 students attended the annual Spring Trip. The group posed for a picture
after touring the WVU Research Farm.

Directly after Spring Trip, it was time to get ready for 3 back-to-back events.  The first was the 60th Annual Cumberland Valley FFA Parent/Member banquet. The chapter hosted 250 community members, parents, honorary members, administrators, and supporters to the high school auditorium to enjoy in the accomplishments of the chapter during the past year.

The next event was the 3rd Annual “A-Day: Connecting Communities.”  This event was geared toward bringing community members, agriculturists, and students together to become more aware of the bounty that agriculture provides to each individual every day. The event consisted of free “Ag in the Classroom” activities, a Flower Sale, live music, pony rides, and a hay ride. Over 400 individuals attended even with inclement weather.

The final event of the year was the 2nd annual Feast or Famine Hunger Banquet. To replicate the disbursement of poverty in the world, attendees are asked to dine in the shoes of the poor, middle class, and high class based upon the luck of the draw. Tables are decorated accordingly and the meals are varied based upon the class chosen randomly. Speakers from Heifer International, the Central PA Food Bank, and Project SHARE shared remarks on how individuals can help fight hunger locally and abroad.
Feast or Famine was a great event to raise awareness of food insecurity
and ways that local groups can help to fight hunger in Pennsylvania.

As I’m currently attending a CASE institute, I’m reminded of how it is important to recharge during the summer with a combination of professional development and relaxation (well, maybe next summer?). Agriculture Education is a unique career in education because of the opportunities to continuously talk with other educators that are providing a holistic approach to developing their students. Since we see students in many settings beside the classroom (county fairs, judging contests, CDE practices, overnight leadership conferences), it adds that much motivation to seek out new opportunities to develop oneself as a teacher/mentor/coach to make the upcoming year better than the last.

Cheers to year 2!