Tuesday, September 16, 2014

World Wisdom with Weaver: Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

"We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." ~Hilaire Belloc
"As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own." ~Margaret Mead
A Collage of my France trip
In my senior year of high school, my french club (Societe Honoraire de Francais) offered us a 10 day tour of France. It included Paris, Loir Valley, Mont St. Michel and several other places. My best friend and I decided we were going on this trip together as a last "hoorah" as best friends before we went off to separate universities. It was an amazing trip! We ate baguettes in Paris, toured the tiny medieval town of St. Michel, touched the plaque outside Notre Dame and stood in awe at the amazing chateaus of the countryside. That trip changed me. It opened my eyes to a greater world beyond my front door; it made me love other cultures and seek new experiences; it made me brave to try new things; it made me yearn to know people from different backgrounds. It made me appreciate what it means to be HUMAN.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland and Ukraine with Penn State CAS for an agricultural tour of several cities in these two countries. One evening, we went out to see a ballet in Lviv and our translator was called away and so was our group leader. Suddenly, we were 8 American kids with 5 Ukrainian kids. We didn't speak their language and they barely spoke ours. Suddenly, I began to speak in French. One of the girls in the group had studied there for 6 months and began to answer me! So, here we were in Ukraine communicating in French! And I realized right there that travelling to other countries, speaking other languages, and appreciating people for their culture is a beautiful gift. 

And now I'd like to encourage you (yes you!) to take that plunge as well. Experience the gift of travel abroad, learn about a new culture, put yourself in a scary situation, find that you have courage and compassion deep in your heart. TRAVEL!!

EF Tours in Dominican Republic
I know it's scary, especially these days, but my friends, it is so worth it. And agriculture is a unifying occupation in all nations. We all grow food and we all care about how food is grown. You, as an agricultural science student, have a unique opportunity to not just travel, but to make a difference in your travels. My hope for you is that you'll travel somewhere before you graduate college. It's not hard, there are more opportunities today than there were when I was in school. But you have to make that choice.  You won't regret it.  

Here are some ideas to help you out:

Talk to your teachers about EF Tours (@EFTours) (On Facebook)

EF Tours Summit Experience
This company has evolved in recent years and what they offer now is impressive. You can do everything from a service learning tour, to language immersion, to global summits. At the summits they've had keynote speakers from Al Gore to Jane Goodall work with the participants. And they can also customize a trip to suit your particular needs. In the coming months I'm going to be working with one of their representatives to develop an Agricultural Sciences Trip to the Dominican Republic for an 8 day service learning experience on a local farm. Interested? Have your Ag. Teacher contact me! I'm looking for a few schools to pioneer this trip!

2.Global Youth Institute
World Food Prize - Global Youth Institute. Technically this one is in Des Moines, Iowa. But hear me out! This is a great conference that brings together scientists, activists, students and professionals from all over the world! You have to apply to be accepted, but it's worthwhile. In addition to this, they offer the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship which gives students the opportunity to spend 8 weeks working with scientists and policymakers from around the world!

3. International Programs in the College of Ag. Sciences at PSU!
Somewhere in Ukraine! :)
On the train from Poland to Ukraine
CAS - INTAG. Most universities/colleges have a study abroad program, but #1 I'm a PSU girl so I have to support my Alma Mater and #2 I think PSU does a better job than most with the opportunities it provides! And in the College of Ag. Sciences there are so many great ways to travel and study agriculture! Who could ask for anything more?! You can do a summer abroad, fall break abroad, or an entire semester abroad. There are many options to fit your own academic needs. My advice? Don't make excuses, you are in college once so make the most of it!
4. A few others...Ketja Lingenfelter (Assistant Director for Student Global Engagement) has given me a few sites for you to check out:

Once again, these are just a few of the many opportunities you have to travel outside the U.S. I find these options to be the most practical, beneficial, and of quality for agricultural science students, but there are plenty more! Found a good one? Then comment below to share with others. And please, PLEASE consider travelling abroad. Who knows, it just may change your life!

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." 
~Mark Twain

The Streets of Lviv, Ukraine
Agriculturally Yours,

Nicole Weaver

PSU Global Teach Ag! Advocate

World Traveler, Admirer of New Places

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

World Wisdom With Weaver: Teachers (Especially Ag!!) Need to Travel!

Happy Wednesday! By now, teachers across the country have returned to the classroom and are knee-deep in learning new names, faces, and learning needs. I bet a few of you even got your beginning-of-year-cold right?!
I've always said that Agriscience Teachers are like no other teacher out there. We work harder, teach harder, go the extra mile with activities, and advise a pretty awesome student organization. We also can be found helping students complete applications, prepare animals for fair, and chaperoning trips across the state and country! It's not an easy job, but it is rewarding.

However, I know that after some time, a teacher will feel burnt out. Because of the demands on our time and our innate desire to give all we can to our students, we end up over-committing, burning the candle at both ends, and running ourselves ragged. That burn out has plagued our profession for years and we constantly discuss ways to retain our young teachers and keep them passionate. Well, I've got the answer (or at least an option)!


Think about almost every Disney movie out there (come on, I know you love Disney as much as I do...):
  • Belle - She wished for "adventure in the great wide somewhere"
  • Pocahontas - She postulated that adventure was "just around the river bend"
  • Peter Pan - He showed Wendy and her brothers Neverland which was "second star to the right and straight on 'til morning"
  • Aladdin - He showed Jasmine a "Whole New World"
What do these all have in common? They didn't just stay at home and they weren't afraid to take that leap of faith! When did we stop listening to the advice Disney movies gave us?! 

Ag. Teachers, international travel is not just a way for you to recharge and shift your perspective; it's also a way to reinvigorate your teaching, re-spark your creativity, and allow you to do something for YOU again. You deserve that!

So, to help you, I've located some opportunities that might interest you. Check them out. You might just have the time of your life and find a new adventure!

#1 - Fullbright Program (@FullbrightPrgrm) is sponsored by the US Department of State and provides funding for students, teachers, scholars, artists and professionals for grad study, research and teaching (K-12). The application for 2015-2016 is LIVE NOW and is due by November 5th. A colleague of mine was accepted into this program and taught for 6 months in South Africa. He came back with the greatest of experiences.

#2 - Marine Education Fellowship brings a select group of educators into the field every year for an 8 day field-science education. This March and April (2015) they will be coordinating programs in Baja and Costa Rica. Check it out!

#3 - AgEd2Korea. In 2014 The University of Florida and Penn State University offered 8 students and 7 full-time agriscience teachers a chance to learn about and spend 4 weeks in Korea. All participants spent time learning about the country before their trip and then immersed themselves in the culture of the country. Check out their BLOG and listen to David Bittner (Agricultural Science Educator at Midd-West HS) discuss his experience on this trip:

#4 - PSU Global TeachAg! Fellowship. Not ready to set sail on the open winds? Well, how about applying for my position? I may be the first, but I hope to not be the last! Take some time off (I'll discuss this more in a future blog) and spend your time working to develop global school-based educational opportunities. I can tell you that just in the few weeks I've been in this new role I have felt so re-energized as a teacher. 

These are just four of the MANY opportunities that exist out there for teachers to travel abroad to learn, teach and grow. You deserve this opportunity to develop as a professional and individual. You've earned this. The annual Citrus Sale will survive without you for one year! 

Do you know of other opportunities that I may have missed?  Well, then please comment on this post and/or contact me @TeamWeaverFever. I look forward to hearing from you and I hope to find out that some of you took my challenge and get to experience these awesome programs.
Until next time (when I will be talking about STUDENT travel).

Agriculturally Yours,

Nicole Weaver
PSU Global Teach Ag! Fellow

Monday, September 8, 2014

PSU Teach Ag! Society Welcomes You Back to School! #agedu

Since it is the beginning of the school year, the Teach Ag! Society would like to welcome you to the new school year! If you have never heard of Teach! Ag Society, we are a group of motivated agriculture education students who do activities involving the Agriculture Education major and complete other educational events throughout the year! You don't have to be in the major to join this awesome organization! If you don’t know the officers, we would like to introduce you to the team.

2014 Teach Ag! Society Executive Team
Ms. Jillian Gordon,
 2015 Student Teacher,

Vice President: 
Ms. Laura Metrick,
2015 Student Teacher,

Ms. Cassidy Cheddar,
 2015 Student Teacher,

Membership Secretary:
Ms. Janae Bickhart
2015 Student Teacher,

 Mr. Tyler Schaeffer,
 2015 Student Teacher,

CFFA Liaison:
Ms. Deanna Miller,
 2015 Student Teacher,
Social Committee Chairs:

Ms. Amanda Forstater,
 2015 Student Teacher, @CityAggie

 Ms. Katie Andrews
2015 Student Teacher, @klandrews_24

Prof. Dev. Committee Chair:
Ms. Rea Ianson
2015 Student Teacher,
Fundraising Committee Chair:
Mr. Howard Poole
2015 Student Teacher,

Outreach & Comm. Service

Ms. Rachel Telesz 
2015 Student Teacher,

Ms. Olivia Murphy-Sweet
2015 Student Teacher,

If you see any of the officers or committee chairs, feel free to stop by and ask them questions! We just had our Welcome Back Picnic, so keep in touch with our future events!  Keep checking your Teach Ag Tuesday Email Blast's (to be added to the listserv email foster@psu.edu)  for more information and when our meetings are going to be held!

 Become apart of the Ag Ed TEAM!

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 teachag@psu.edu. Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog!

Olivia Murphy-Sweet
Student Blogger
Teach Ag! Avenger
Twitter Handle- @OSweetMurph
 2016 Agricultural Education Student Teacher 

Lehigh Valley Zoo Internship with Cory Scott! #psuaged15

Cory Scott, a 2015 Student Teacher, had the opportunity for an incredible internship this past summer. Cory (@CJScottAgEd) was an intern at the Lehigh Valley Zoo in Schnecksville, PA. He is a guest blogger this week to share his experience with us! 

Cory Scott, 2015 Student Teacher
This summer I was a conservation education intern at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. As an intern in the education department I had a wide array of responsibilities from teaching and giving tours to providing animal care. Most days at the zoo for me start at 7 working with one of the education staff members on one of our two animal routines. As part of each routine we were
responsible for cleaning up after, feeding and checking each of our animals in the education department. Some of the over 50 animals in the department included many reptiles such as snakes and lizards, several birds of prey, a sloth and two prehensile tail porcupines just to name a few.

After all the animals were taken care of it was then time to get to the education part of the day. The zoo provides many different educational programs including animal presentations, guided tours, nature walks, creek studies and other programs aimed at teaching people about conservation. As an intern I was required to learn about most of the animals in the zoo and run the different programs that we offered.

This internship provided me with countless new skills and knowledge, not only animals but also teaching. While at the zoo I worked with students and adults of many different ages and backgrounds including preschoolers, senior citizens, and people from rural communities as well as inner city Allentown. Meeting and interacting with all these different people was an eye opening experience for me.

I had never spent any time teaching preschoolers but i quickly learned that it takes more patients then I could have ever imagined. A critical skill I learned through working with small children was taking information and breaking it down into its simplest components. This was something I struggled with in the beginning but overtime developed. While working with students from inner city Allentown I learned a great deal about their lack of access to nature and open spaces. This again required me to learn to take the information I had and adapt it to meet their needs and relate it to their prior experiences. The skills I gained this summer I will take with me as I begin my career as an educator.

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 teachag@psu.edu. Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog

Cory Scott
2015 Student Teacher

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

World Wisdom with Weaver: "What's Cookin' Good Lookin?" #TeachAg #Global

Growing up Italian means that food is not just what you eat. It's an entity unto itself, almost like a silent but ever-present family member. Cooking for others is how you show love, make a point, bring about change. Some of my earliest memories involve my Grandma Betty pulling a chair over to the stove and letting 4-year-old me help stir the pot of sauce or my Granny Franny showing me how to mix and bake the perfect batch of biscotti. If you come to my house, I will work tirelessly to prepare a meal to show you how welcome you are and how happy we are to have you.

But, this isn't unique to myself or my family. I know many of you have the same experiences and I'm sure across the globe this is a shared experience. Food brings people together. It inspires, starts conversation, creates memories and allows people to bond.

Food is also a great way to engage students!

Recently, on UpWorthy (@UpWorthy) I came across a great article that showcased the weekly food purchases and consumption of a typical family in various countries (Meet 7 Families). I found myself studying each photo, finding similarities and differences to my own family and what we eat, and trying to think of the different dishes they might make from those items. The photo at right is from the article and shows a family from Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

How could you utilize this article in your classroom?
  • Have students bring in a list or create a collage of the foods their family purchases for a week and compare and contrast it with one of the photos from the article.
  • In groups, students could take on the role of one of these families and, using the ingredients shown, create a weekly menu of meals for their "family." 
  • Engage in a class discussion to compare the different families and discuss the similarities and differences in vegetable and meat consumption, natural and processed foods, and portions for each family member.
  • In various specialized classes you could use this to discuss American or Western Agriculture to foreign agriculture (Livestock production in US vs. Africa, Monocropping vs. Polycropping, Import and Export policies of various countries, Trade Unions and how the affect global agriculture markets). 
  • (My Favorite) COOK THE FOOD!!
On NPR (I listen to NPR whenever I'm in the car, puts my son to sleep like a dream!) a few days ago I heard an interview with an author named Mark Kurlansky (@codlansky). He is the author of 26 books that mostly revolve around food. His latest book "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" was co-written with his daughter, Talia. When she was young, they brought out a globe, spun it and stuck their finger on randomly.  Where that finger landed determined their next meal. They would research the country and find a dish that was commonly eaten there. From that tradition sprang this cookbook. How cool would it be to work with your FCS department and create a cross-discipline learning experience?!  Team your students with students from a cooking class and have them choose a recipe from this book and research the country, the ingredients, and the cultural background of the dish. Then make it and share what they learned - and created - with the class! 

Food is not my only motivator...I also love to devour books and I know that encouraging reading in schools is always a challenge. Does your school have a literacy initiative? Mark Kurlansky has also written some pretty cool books about the history of food consumption and how food is made and used. How about "Salt: A World History?" It talks about how salt is used across cultures and time. "The Food of a Younger Land" is a nonfiction book that delves into the history of early 20th century food and is "a portrait of American food - before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional." These are just a few of his books and, honestly, just one resource for providing students with a text; author John Reader wrote a book on the history of the potato; and how about "The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage. 

What I'm trying to say in this blog is that teaching a global lesson can be as easy as opening the fridge or the cover of a book. Food is a common denominator in all homes and a great way for students to begin to see how other people live. It's also a way for them to see how food and agriculture has shaped society. Have fun with one of these lessons and please share what you've done. If you decide to go the cooking route, I'd LOVE to come and partake!

Agriculturally Yours,

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PSU CASE Institute: The Host School Perspective from Cumberland Valley! #case14asp

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.

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.

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.

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 teachag@psu.edu. Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog
Darla Romberger
Cumberland Valley Agriculture Science Teacher
Guest Blogger
Current PSU M.S. Student
2014 PSU Student Teacher


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm On The Road Not Taken... (#TeachAg, #Global, #AGEDU)

Hello!  My name is Nicole Weaver and I appreciate you stopping in to read my first blog post! I am a new mom (my 3 1/2 month old son is sleeping in my arms as I write this!), a wife, a teacher, an advocate of global school-based agriculture education, and an aspiring amateur chef!  If you will be patient, I'd like to tell you a little about myself and why I'm here!

I was not a typical kid.  I watched Grease every day after school and knew the lyrics to every Queen and Pink Floyd song when I was 8.  Other kids wanted to be doctors and lawyers and I wanted to be the next Jaques Cousteau - at least until a touched a dolphin for the first time. I was not a typical kid.

I wasn't a typical College of Ag. Sciences student either. I took random classes like Linguistics (which I highly recommend!) and French Cinema (which I also highly recommend) because they "sounded fun."  I was an Animal Biosciences major my freshman year and sort of "fell" into the Agricultural & Extension Education major - I'm honestly not sure how it happened, but I'm glad I did!  The other AEE majors all came from farms or some agriculture background - I grew up down the road from a farm and helped my grandparents make jars of our ancient family tomato sauce recipe. I worked with PGSAS (Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Agricultural Sciences) and traveled to Ukraine and Poland to do farm tours. I also acted in and stage managed several theatrical productions during my 5 years. I graduated from PSU in 2004 with a degree in AEE and two minors - International Agriculture & Theatre.  I was not a typical college kid.

And now?  Well for the past 10 years, I've been an atypical Ag. Teacher.  I luckily found Twin Valley High School in Berks County, PA. They "get" my atypical-ness and encourage it!  When CASE (Curriculum for Agriculture Science Education) was brand new, they paid for me to attend one of the first training sessions.  I became the first teacher in PA to be certified in CASE. I teach about soil science and floriculture by day, and advise Theatre Arts Club and produce the school's spring musical by night - and this past school year I choreographed the show (while pregnant!) as well. I'm not a typical Ag. Science Teacher.

See a trend? Well now, I get to add a new role to my professional quirkiness: PSU Global TeachAg! Fellow. I'm the first of my kind! My school (Twin Valley) was kind enough to grant me a semester of educational leave to complete my M.Ed, and PSU Center for Professional Personnel Development in the Agricultural and Extension Education Program in the College of Ag. Sciences was gracious enough to offer me a full-time graduate student experience and internship. Now, I get to take my passion for International Agriculture and utilize it to further global school-based agricultural education in secondary schools in PA.

This semester I hope to create new links between teachers and students from all over the world and create a system where our students are learning about agriculture on a broad scope. I want to create an open dialogue with professionals from diverse backgrounds and our students to get them asking important questions about global agriculture and how we are going to use our knowledge to solve the dilemmas that face our planet.  I hope to offer you, my reader, some new ideas; if you are a teacher, I'd like to give you resources to implement global agriculture education in your classroom; if you are a high school student, I'd like to open your mind and challenge you to think outside your realm of comfort; if you are a professional, I'd like to inspire you to think globally, and encourage you to develop global competency; and in general, I hope to entertain and educate you.

I like that I'm not your typical Agriculture Science Teacher or PSU graduate student. I like that my passion in Global Agriculture could create great change and growth in our state. Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" has always been an inspiration to me and I think it's perfectly fitting now - to create global competency and the ability for agriculture globally to serve our population, we need to take the road less traveled. We need to be brave. We need to be quirky. I'm on the road less traveled and I hope you'll join me on this journey. 

Wanna chat global school-based agricultural education?  Follow me on Twitter (@TeamWeaverFever), e-mail me (TeamWeaverFever@gmail.com) or comment on this blog!  I hope to hear from you!

Agriculturally yours,