Thursday, August 27, 2015

Welcome Back to School! #WeAreBack

With the weather changing, students back on campus, and the smell of fresh textbooks in the air, it only means one thing: the school year has officially started. Over 16,000 new students were welcomed into the Nittany Lion Pride and we know how crazy your first year as a college student can be! While the freshmen are adjusting to their new year, the seniors are wrapping up their Penn State experience by going out with a bang! Some of those seniors include the 2016 class of 13 stellar Agriculture Extension and Education majors that will be working hard throughout the fall semester for their student teaching. That being said, we want to make sure that we capture all of the College of Agriculture students and inform them of some events coming up! 

Teach Ag! Society:

September 2nd:
  •         Hosting a Welcome Wings Meeting at 6:15 on the Ferguson Building Lawn
  •         Working at the Involvement Fair at the Creamery Lawn from 11-3

September 24th: NATIONAL TEACH AG DAY!
  •          Hosting Dave Burgess author of  "Teach Like a PIRATE”.
  •          Dave Burgess session for students in the HUB’s Freedom Hall from 8:30-10AM.
  •          Live Stream Webcast for National Teach Ag Day from 1:45 to 4PM in 214 Ferguson

Tuesday September 8th at 6PM Welcome Back Picnic on Ferguson Lawn! Come out and meet some CFFA members and enjoy some awesome food!

Meeting Schedule: 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 7PM in 214 Ferguson are Membership Meetings.

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog!

Olivia Murphy-Sweet
Blog Editor
2016 Student Teacher

Sunday, June 28, 2015

#teachagtech -> Social Media and Ag Education

^Image from EWebDesign

Social Media and Education.  To Snapchat or not to Snapchat, that is the question???  The image above is just a glimpse of the many options we have to engage with other people today.  As educators, I believe we are most closely connected to witnessing how young people interact.  We are the neutral zone - we're not quite parents, yet as agriculture educators we connect with our students in learning and activities outside the the classroom, so students engage us on a higher level than most.  According to one survey, teenagers are beginning to migrate away from Facebook simply due to the increasing adult presence - the "grandma effect".  So how do we develop relevant educational learning opportunities that meet our students where they are?  First, we must learn where they are (other than witnessing all the duck and fishy faces - and we can't forget #selfiesfordays - that end up on Snapchat).  This article from the Pew Research Center outlines where our youth are engaged in social media.  It does a great job of outlining motives as well as social-economic trends.  

Over the last few years, I have explored how others interact on social media and the learning opportunities that are out there.  From the usage of hashtags to learning different platforms, one thing remains the same - we all want to be recognized and validated, while meaningfully learning.  What was historically a local community festival is now a Facebook feed, so how can we make the best of it?   One of the platforms I truly struggled to see the educational value in is Snapchat.  (I believe it was the never-ending fishy faces on van rides to conventions with students.)  So, I challenged myself to see how this could be used.  I became inspired by a Snapchat feed from a Veterinarian - Dr. Cody Creelman.  I first found him on Instagram (vetpracticevahs) as I was trying to find feeds to supplement my Veterinary Science class.  I actually encouraged my Honors and CP Veterinary Science class to follow him and others so they could hear industry lingo and see real life.  One day in class, we were actually talking about the disorders of the musculature of the heart and in his IG feed, he had a posting about the same thing - perfect real world application without leaving the classroom.  As it turns out, he also has a Snapchat (creelmancody).  On both social media platforms he shows day-to-day happenings in his veterinary practice.  Everything from interstitial pneumonia, acidosis to problems with the eye; however, he does this in a fun and engaging manner.  After connecting with him on Snapchat, he referred me to the Ontario Vet College (Snapchat & Instagram: ontvetcollege) and Ms. Jane Dawkins, Marketing Communications Officer at Ontario Vet College.  After contacting Ms. Dawkins, she recommend I check out their snap stories on YouTube.   What a great idea!  Ms. Dawkins along with current students and alumni capture their work and produce videos to show the world.  I have been inspired by this creativity and willingness to share.  As we move forward in the Open Source and free education movements, I believe we must be willing to adapt and find new ways to "educate". 

What if we as agriculture educators produced professional Snapchats and began sharing what we know?  To engage with our students and the world on another level and create fun materials that show our students and others we care enough to keep expanding our communication skills, while showing them what they are doing is important.   

^A screenshot of a Snapchat while doing a SAE visit weighing animals #saesnaps (sorry for the chunk out of the emblem - it's on our scales, so it works hard!)

Wouldn't it be cool to Snapchat our SAE visits and than combine them for the end of the year banquet?  The sky is the limit if we are willing to venture out.  I've already begun a fun little project of #saesnaps.....we'll see how it goes.  In the end, we may not all be able or want to adopt all forms of social media or learning systems, but in the end, we can always be inspired by others to constantly transform our educational approach.  {I would like to thank Dr. Cody Creelman and Ms. Jane Dawkins for allowing me to use their information and story for this post.  Your endeavors to educate have inspired others to act.}

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 Teach Ag! Society Essay Contest Special Video Award

We recently shared the results of our 6th annual Teach Ag! Essay Contest by the Teach Ag! Society.

This year we shared a "special award" for most outstanding video!

Watch the great 2:00 minute submission from Emily Bomgardner from the Annville-Cleona FFA Chapter!

Fan, Follow , Like, watch our Program! Penn State Teach Ag! is on the web!
Twitter: @TeachAgPSU

Monday, June 15, 2015

Guest Post: "But Why? A Future Ag Educator Goes to Costa Rica"

But why.....

This is a Cajuela...used to collect coffee beans.  It is
one of the most difficult words I have learned.
I repeated is about 28 times to learn it. 
If you have been following my personal blog or our Spanish for Ag blog, you have realized I don’t always write about the experience I have had touring a Costa Rican farm or the new word I learned.  These things are interesting, but they are not me- they are not what I am really learning.  So why, why would a small town Wisconsin girl studying agriculture education, one of the teaching professions desperately in need of teachers spend time in Costa Rica.  I mean I could take summer classes to speed up my education or work full time, or over time to keep paying my student loans…. there are a lot of options…but why learn a foreign language in a foreign country?  Because it’s worth it.  It is worth it because growth is worth it, my future students are worth it, my future job is worth it, and even my future family is worth it.

Agricultural Education is a profession dedicated to preparing students for future careers and a lifetime of informed choices for a global agriculture industry and world.  Agricultural education has been changing, and in my opinion will continue to and needs to.  Diversity is a topic talked about in most education classes, we’ve all been there, you know when everyone seems to be walking on egg shells.  The list of the differences and unique quirks, qualities and needs my students will have academically, emotionally, physically, spiritually  and mentally could go on for pages, so I will only focus on two.  Language and Culture.  According to the United States 2011 Census 20.8% of the population five and over speak a language other than English at home, 61% of which reported to speaking English “very well”.  From 1980 to 2010, this is over a 150% increase, and this was five years ago. So now what?

Easy answer: Just. Learn. English.  Or just sit in an English speaking class and you will be fine. I beg to differ.  For the past month I have taken Spanish classes four days a week and attended 13 tours all in Spanish, and it is exhausting, but again it is worth it.  Through this process I have realized a few things:

Class may be difficult, but at least I can hear all the birds
through the open classroom set up while drinking Costa Rican coffee!
1.  Feelings Matter. The feeling of failure, confusion and disappointment is common and frustrating, but yet I don’t want to ask for help.  Feeling alone in my need for assistance is a terrible feeling.  The thing is, my classmates are in the same boat, we are all learning Spanish as a second language and about agricultural practices we don’t know in English, let alone in Spanish.  In my future classroom it will not be the whole class that feels like this, more like 1-5 students that feel alone, frustrated and confused…I hope I don’t forget what this feels like.  

2. Be a Guide. I have come to a hypothesis that the tour guides that have learned a language other than there native language seemed to speak a little slower, clearer and ask for clarification.  I hope to be that tour guide for my students. 

3. More than WordsLearning a language is not simply learning words, and traveling is not about seeing new places.  It is about learning about a culture, yourself and our world.  Our agriculture industry is global- shouldn’t our students and teachers be too? 

4. Grow Baby Grow. Experiences where growth happens are the best experiences. These are the ones that change us, the ones that make us better- I want to provide these experiences and reflect on them with my students.

Why go?  Why take on the feelings of failure, smell like deet bug spray, mix up words like soap and soup and get stuck in my own thoughts? Because it’s worth it, because my future students are worth it, because the future of agriculture education is worth it. 

Written by Guest Blogger:
Ms. Kayla Hack, 
2017 Student Teacher Candidate

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mississippi Mindsets: Reflecting back on the 3rd Annual Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away (#PSUAgEd2Miss)

Editor's note: This is the final blog installment of our third annual Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away to Mississippi to help with financial literacy and supervised agricultural experience

Welcome to the Hospitality State!

Maybe you’ve been following along this past month as Penn State Teach Ag! adventured to new frontiers in school-based agricultural education and if not, that’s okay! Let me catch you up. 

On Monday, May 11th, 15 Penn State Agricultural & Extension Education students and faculty boarded a plane to depart for the third annual Penn State Teach Ag! Domestic Study Away to the great “Hospitality State” of Mississippi. This year with a unique focus on financial literacy in the Appalachia; particularly in the area of Supervised Agricultural Experiences, or SAE.

Top Ten Fast Facts on 2015 DSA!

Here’s the top 10 fast facts you should know about #PSUAgEd2Miss. (Check out that hashtag too! Lots of cool stuff was shared on social media!)

1. Traveled 1300+ miles across Mississippi (and a little of Louisiana, too!)

2. Cool Rental Vans (one that was more like a spaceship)

3. Unique, Mississippi-famous commodity visits

4. Generous supporters who helped make this a financially viable! (Thanks CHS, Center for Professional Personnel Development, PSU College of Agricultural Sciences Student Activities Fund and Penn State University Park Student Allocations Committee!)

5. Great Stakeholder and partner visits

6. As in SIX Wonderful School-based Agriculture Programs

7. Seven Mississippi secondary agriculture education students (okay, actually take that times 20. 140 STUDENTS!) to share the impact of Supervised Agriculture Education with.

8. Eight Days away

9. Nine Super fabulous meals, provided for us by our Mississippi friends! (Talk about tasty catfish, crawfish, BBQ and anything else fried!)

10. Incredible role-models of secondary agricultural educators

You may be thinking, “wow, all that in one week?!” Yes, all that and more in one week! Upon the completion of an end-of-trip reflection activity, there seemed to be several common themes between team members. The impact of the Domestic Study Away stretched much further then simply the opportunity to experience a state, culture and agriculture much different then our own. You can read more about our adventures in the blog posts that came before this one but for now let me quickly simplify things to help you understand the power of this year’s Domestic Study Away. Here’s three big take-aways...

“A glimpse of one team members
interpretation during reflection
of the week in Mississippi.”
Three Big Take Aways

1. Community in Agricultural Education is powerful.

We had the privilege to visit six, really wonderful agricultural education programs while in Mississippi. During every single visit, the teachers and students shared with us the impact that partnerships with their community had on their program. For some, it was alumni and parents preparing a meal for us all to enjoy together, for others it was financial and resource support, it was recruitment, innovation, tradition and passion. Continually in reflection conversations, team members discussed the beauty of the examples of community in the agriculture education programs we engaged with. It was inspiring, knowing that together - teacher, parent, neighbor and student, powerful things were happening both inside and outside those walls.

“We don’t give expecting to get back, but for some reason they still always give back to us.” 
2015 PSU Teach Ag! Society DSA Team:
A part of our community
- Mr. Andy White, Brandon (MS) FFA Advisor/ Agriscience Teacher

2. The influence of the components of the Three-Circle Model, in all its forms.

Classroom Instruction, FFA and Supervised Agriculture Experience. These are three key components, such that with one missing an agricultural education program arguably cannot function to its fullest potential. While in Mississippi, we witnessed a wide range of programs; programs that have similar strengths and weaknesses of Pennsylvania programs work alongside of. The Domestic Study Away is a powerful tool that allows pre-service teachers to experience the diversity, trials and victories of agricultural programs across the nation and use that to better our own future programs. Facilities can be a factor to success, but they are also not a sole reason a program is great. The same goes for funding, access to resources, location, etc. It seems as though the success of a program is best measured by the implementation of Classroom Instruction, FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experience Model. No matter the format, each of those three pieces seems to be a secret ingredient to a recipe to success. 

“Without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom accomplish much.” 
- The FFA Creed

3. We chose the right profession.

Agricultural Education is not for the faint of heart; but, it is for the passionate, the fun-loving, the adventurous, the innovative and the curious. It is for individuals who are driven to meet student’s needs, wherever they are. Regardless of age, location or ability. Agricultural Education is for those who are zealous about seeing their students and communities develop into the best versions of themselves. These people make up an incredible, wild family; a nation-wide network of professionals passionately pursuing the future of agriculture. I think I can speak for all Penn State students who embarked on this Mississippi adventure; the agricultural education profession was displayed for us in true authenticity. Though the road to get there may not be easy, it most surely will be worth it.

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”
- W.B. Yeats

“What a good-looking bunch of future agricultural educators! Here’s to bright futures!”
Photo Courtesy of  Mississippi State University 
The third annual Domestic Study Away was surely one for the books. Undoubtedly, the team returned with a refueled passion, ready to enter another school year and even more prepared to one day enter our own classrooms. However, there are many appropriate thanks that are due. Our experience would not have been possible without the generous and continued support of four pivotal partners: the CHS Foundation, PSU Center for Professional and Personnel Development in Agricultural Education, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and University Park Allocation Committee. We are forever grateful for your contribution to the furthering of preparing dedicated school-based agriculture educators. 

Another sincere thank you is due also to Dr. Gaea Hock and her fantastic team of individuals from Mississippi State University (and more!) who worked so diligently to organize, design and fund this unforgettable trip! We couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you!

Until next year,

Janae Herr
2015 Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away Chair
2016 Student Teacher

Link to Flickr Photo Album of all Domestic Study Aways:

Other Blog Posts

#PSUAgEd2Miss: Day 6 - Historical Exploration! Gettysburg to Vicksburg
  • Nathan Repetz, 2017 Student Teacher, @N8_Repetz
#PSUAgEd2Miss: Day 5 - Delta Dawn: Exploring Agrarian Roots 
  • Laura Metrick, 2015 Graduate, @Its_LauraBeth
  • Jenna Timmons, 2016 Student Teacher, @jitimmons
#PSUAgEd2Miss: Day 4- MSU Bulldog Pride and Mantachie Mustang Motivation 
  • Deanna Miller, 2015 Graduate, @Deannapsu15
  • Samantha Sessamen, 2016 Student Teacher, @smsessamen
#PSUAgEd2Miss - Day 3: Great Coasts and Great Schools! The power of Agriculture
  • Katie Andrews, 2016 Student Teacher, @klandrews_24
  • Matt Holt, 2016 Student Teacher, @mholt5595
  • Heather Wasson, 2018 Student Teacher, @heatwasson
#PSUAgEd2Miss - Day 2: SAE SuperStars! Loyd Star and Ocean Springs 
  • Sarabeth Royer, 2016 Student Teacher, @sb_royer
  • Mason Tate, 2016 Student Teacher, @mttate18
#PSUAgEd2Miss - Day 1 of the Domestic Study Away: On the Road Again! 
  • Janae Bickhart, 2015 Graduate, @JanaeBickhart
  • Erin Yoest, 2016 Student Teacher, @eyoest519

Monday, May 25, 2015

#teachagtech -> How to Use Wordpress or Blogging in the Classroom

How to Use Wordpress and Blogging Platforms in the Classroom

How to Use Wordpress and Blogging Platforms in the Classroom.  In many of our classes, our students create work they should keep for future career aspirations.  As our society evolves into a digital and virtual society, it is imperative we teach good digital citizenship techniques (you can see a great resource here) and personal branding.  E-portfolios/blogs will be key in the future for various careers and to ensure our students can market their talents and skills.  Even if our students end up in a career that would not necessitate an e-portfolio or blog, it is prudent to expose this form of communication so our students know where their future customers, consumers and community members look for information.  

There are many platforms to choose from when considering a platform for your students' e-portfolios/blogs.  Obviously, we are limited to what our school district technology policies will permit.  However, even if you are in a district with very strict policies, you as the instructor could use a platform to showcase various class material where you can direct students if needed.  

Here are some key points to remember when guiding your students to showcase their material:

1.  Do not include personal information on main pages - they should not post pictures of themselves and addresses.  Mandate they keep a professional, appropriate level of personal information on their site.  If a student wants to include a digital resume, there are many options within different platforms where they can "lock" and "keep private" personal information and distribute that access information as they seek jobs.  

2.  Be professional.  Ask your students what they would think of walking past a storefront and seeing pictures of what is posted on their friends' feed on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.  Ask them if they would want to hire and spend their hard-earned cash on that individual/business after seeing those images.  Relate it to their own lives and discuss how these personal marketing slip-ups can be very costly now and in the future.  Remind them that just because they deleted a picture doesn't mean Facebook did - once it goes on the internet, it is there forever.

3.  Be organized and create a site that is easily navigated.  Take a moment and discuss visual elements of media with students.  Look at web pages that are effective and not.  If you are creating a site as an informational repository for your classroom, it is very important you make it easy to read and find information.  Otherwise it is just another webpage that can actually cause you more problems when a parent is looking for information and can't find it.  

4.  Create a place where students can interact.  Many of the platforms provide the opportunity for "comments" or classroom feeds.  Allow students to constructively critique peer's work - allow them to take course content where it makes sense to them.  The more they can create their own understanding of concepts, the higher the likelihood of them retaining the information.  

5.  Allow yourself to have fun and encourage your students to create.  This may be one of the first times you encourage your students to own their very own piece of internet real estate - allow them to explore and showcase their very best.  

I am very fortunate to be working in a district that supports integrating technology and the exploration of ideas to increase the technological experiences for our students.  Currently, I was given the privilege of creating a Wordpress site where Ms. Slates and I could showcase the work of our Plant Science classes.  I challenged my students to create their own e-portfolios where they had to take pictures of their work created in my Floriculture class and describe what they did - in the hopes they could use this later for job seeking.  It was amazing to see the creativity and intensity from students - they loved showcasing their work to the world.  I spent several class periods teaching the Wordpress platform, but also explaining digital citizenship, personal branding, marketing and photography.  (Obviously, the marketing components fit into learning about the business side of the floral industry - it may not work for all courses/curriculum.)  Wordpress is very easy to start and use; however, my goal in this situation was for students to be able to take these portfolios with them when they graduate.  Many times when students create blogs/portfolios/websites under the school district servers, they disappear when they graduate.   My goal was to create spaces where they own their materials.  Obviously not all districts will permit this and to some extent there is risk involved.  

There are other options other than Wordpress, such as Google Sites, Wix, Weebly and Pathbrite.  Hopefully, this will give you some ideas about how to go about creating and implementing this communicative tool in your classrooms.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

#PSUAgEd2Miss: Day 6 - Historical Exploration! Gettysburg to Vicksburg

Editor's note: This is a continuing series on our third annual Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away to Mississippi to help with financial literacy and supervised agricultural experience. 

Day 6 - Today was the last full day of our journey through the state of Mississippi. With a no "fixed" plans, we took the opportunity to be tourists and check out the city of Vicksburg!

After a crazy educational and busy week, our crew seized the opportunity to sleep in! We woke up to a delicious home-cooked meal, courtesy of our peers, and used our quiet morning for some meaningful reflection. First we discussed the previous day's stops and the ways we can create and use industry connections in our programs. One of the reoccurring themes of the trip is the importance of the connections we make, so we closed the reflection with a look on the connections we have made with each other this past week.

After the relaxed morning we loaded up the trusty #TeachAg! "spaceship" and drove to Vicksburg. The city, which borders the Mississippi River, is most known for the Civil War battle that took place there. We stopped at the battlefield visitor center, and took a driving tour of the battlefield. Unlike Gettysburg, the battle most of us are familiar with, the Vicksburg campaign lasted several months in 1863, as the Union army dug in and surrounded the city in attempt to occupy it. When the Confederate army surrendered on July 4th, 1863 (One day after the battle of Gettysburg ended) the Union was able to gain total control of the Mississippi River.

Speaking of the Mississippi River, that was our next stop on the day! We stopped at an overlook to get a view of the mighty river and get some wonderful pictures. We then drove across the bridge into Louisiana, allowing us to hit two states in one day! (Maybe next year we will have a #PSUAgEd2LA?) After a brief discussion on resources available to us from state welcome centers, we crossed back to Mississippi for dinner. One more catfish dinner and some frozen yogurt was the perfect ending to the day.

Tomorrow we fly home, and even though we are sad to see the journey end, we know that our experiences in Mississippi will have a lasting effect on our teaching careers!

Submitted by:

Nathan Repetz, 2017 Student Teacher
Janae Herr, 2016 Student Teacher