Monday, March 30, 2015

Catch the Wave...Catch the Teach Ag Rave!

For the past few weeks, I've been assisting +/- 12 students in developing their own lesson for the 6th annual Penn State Teach Ag! Essay Contest. What is this, you may ask? A unique opportunity to say the least!

In this state-wide contest, the tables are turned as the students become the teachers. Students are given the chance to teach a class for a day to see the 'behind the scenes' of what it takes to conduct an Agriculture class. Students must identify a topic, create a lesson plan, receive teacher approval and feedback, teach the lesson, and construct a reflective essay about what they learned as a "teacher for a day."

Last year (2014), I had only 6 individuals participate in the contest, so I could 'micro manage' their every move to ensure they had a picture perfect lesson. With more students interested (and some of them repeating from last year), I had to learn to give up some control, give explicit directions about my expectations, and learn to trust my students and their abilities. With only 3 students left to teach at this point, I can say that these kids know their stuff and how to create a fun, engaging lesson!

Watching these students teach has reminded me during my student-teaching experience...wanting to have everything perfect, planning way too much content for a class period, and getting some blank stares from the crowd. Nonetheless, it was cool to see how each student (teacher) adapted to the challenges that were presented to them and how they overcame the ultimate challenge of teaching their peers. I frequently include 5-7 minute presentations into each of my classes, so students are used to speaking in front of their peers. But, keeping their peers' attention for 42 minutes was a new experience for most of them (and somewhat unique for me to sit back and analyze how each person responded).

I hope that the students enjoyed their teaching experience for a day and realize how much work goes into preparing a single lesson (let alone 6 different lessons each day). I hope that by promoting this event, it will benefit all parties involved by creating the opportunity for new conversations during class that may not have existed. Students may realize shared interests, see skills in a classmate that they never saw before, or have a new respect for 'how easy' teachers make teaching look.

Take a look at some of the awesome lessons that students developed!

Taylor E. (pink shirt) presented a lesson on various
salamanders in Pennsylvania and even brought in some
salamanders she caught herself on a scouting trip!

Emiliann G. brought her 2-year-old gelding to school to give students
in Introduction to Agriculture the chance to tack up a horse.

Megan M., another animal lover, thought the best interest approach would
be one of her chickens, Chicko! She discussed the benefits of purchasing farm
fresh eggs.

Courtney W. wanted to share her experience of butchering animals at a local farm.
She discussed terminology for meat science, then gave her peers the chance
to practice skinning a chicken wing--it's harder than you think!

Mackenzie Y., a finalist in last year's Teach Ag! Contest wanted to discuss the
precautions farmers take on their farms to improve biosecurity. She poured her own
agar plates, then asked students to swab a dirty, clean, and disinfected boot
to observe bacteria growth. Did cleaning or disinfecting kill more bacteria?

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