Thursday, November 15, 2012

National Championship!!! Penn State Alpha Tau Alpha wins National Quiz Bowl Competition

Indianapolis – Five dedicated Agricultural and Extension Education (AEE) majors saw their hard work pay off on October 25 in Indianapolis, Indiana as they were crowned National Champions in a National Quiz Bowl Event. Students in any agriculturally related student organization in universities across the nation could compete in the event hosted by the National Alpha Tau Alpha (ATA) organization.   Alpha Tau Alpha is a National Professional Honorary Agricultural Education Organization which plays a vital role in preparing individuals who wish to pursue careers in Agricultural and Extension Education. Alpha Tau Alpha chapters exist in more than thirty one states across the United States and pride their organizations for outstanding and diligent work in professional development, fundraising, community service and fellowship. Penn State's Eta chapter was founded in 1931.
From Left to Right: Ashley Tressler,
Jeanne Case, Caleb Wright,
Mackenzie McCollum, Emily Urban
Each year, the National ATA Organization holds competitive events during the ATA Conclave, which is held in conjunction with the National FFA Convention. Penn State's team consisted of five students, Mackenzie McCollum, senior and 2013 Student Teacher; Caleb Wright, junior and 2014 Student Teacher; Ashley Tresslersenior and 2013 Student Teacher;  Jeanne Casejunior and 2014 Student Teacher; and Emily Urban junior and 2014 Student Teacher; as the alternate

The team endured four rounds of competition in their quest for a national championship.. During the competition, questions were asked to test the students knowledge in three areas; Technical Agriculture, Professional Education, and Agricultural Education. Each round of play consisted of four teams with four members each. The top two teams at the end of the round moved to the next round. Each round consisted of 18 toss up questions, six from each area listed above. Each toss up question was worth two points. Each toss up question was followed by a bonus question, where a team could receive up to four points for the correct answer.
The team anxiously waiting for the next question.

While the competition was tough, Penn State’s well rounded team prevailed, which is not surprising considering the amount of practice they put in to prepare themselves for the competition. Teammate Caleb Wright claims, “Competing in quiz bowl was an awesome experience. The team was able to represent not only the University, but the College of Agricultural Sciences and the AESE Department as well. Bringing home the championship was icing on the cake! Preparing as a team was a great way to forge new friendships and build on the ones already formed. Agricultural Education at Penn State and throughout the country is a close knit group, so any chance to learn more about your future colleagues is always a blast.”
To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes 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 @TeachAgPSU, or on Facebook at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Helping National FFA Convention Attendees Discover how they can "Grow" at Penn State

What gets these University students excited?  

For them it was over 54,000 blue FFA jackets in the city of Indianapolis, Indiana.  During the week of October 23rd-27th, over 20 Penn State students traveled to the National FFA Convention to represent the Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences.  The National FFA Organization is a youth organization that makes a difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.The National FFA Convention is held once a year to give agricultural students in the National FFA Organization the opportunity to compete in various career development events, take part in motivational sessions, and explore their college and career futures.

2012 Penn State Recruitment Staff!
Throughout the week Penn State students assisted in several career development events including Parliamentary Procedure, Food Sciences, and Veterinary Science.  Students also spent many hours recruiting students at the collegiate fair.  At the Penn State booth, FFA members could ask questions about the University and the many opportunities in the College of Agricultural Sciences.  

Matt Dodson, AEE major and 2016 Student Teacher Candidate, said, "This experience helped me see how many opportunities I can introduce my future students to in the Food, Fiber, and Natural Resource Industry!"

FFA members also got to test their knowledge in a game of Jeopardy that highlighted facts about FFA, agriculture, and Penn State University.  Oh did we mention that students could even get a free cookie!  Kudos to a job well done representing our University!

Check out the pure energy from the National FFA Convention Theme Video below:

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes 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 @TeachAgPSU, on Facebook at

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Walker, 2013 Student Teacher, selected as National Champion in Essay Contest

Indianapolis - Josh Walker, a 2013 student teacher at Mohawk HS, was recently selected as the National Champion in the National Alpha Tau Alpha Essay Contest with entry entitled, "Agricultural Development: Selfish gain or altruistic service?"

The National Collegiate Agricultural Education Essay contest is hosted on an annual basis by the National Alpha Tau Alpha: the honorary fraternity of agricultural education. Any student in the nation who is a member of an ATA Chapter, a Collegiate FFA Chapter or any agricultural education organization is eligible to participate.  The 2012 topic was: The American role in providing agricultural extension support in developing countries. For winning, Josh will received a plaque and a check for $100.00. His essay will be submitted for publication  in The Agricultural Education Magazine.

Josh said, "I am very thankful for the courses in my agricultural teacher preparation program at Penn State. Specifically, INTAG 100 was extremely helpful in developing my knowledge to be able to address this essay topic." To read Josh's 750 word essay, please click here:

Josh Walker

The Penn State Teach Ag! Program is very proud of Josh. We wish him the best of luck this spring as he completes his student teacher internship at Mohawk HS with Penn State Alumnus and current Mohawk Agriscience Teacher Cliff Wallace.

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes 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 at, or on our blog at

Walker's National Winning Essay - Agricultural Development: Selfish gain or altruistic service?

Agricultural Development: Selfish gain or altruistic service?

Submitted by:
Josh Walker
2013 Student Teacher at Mohawk High School
 Josh Walker,
2013 Student Teacher
America has a substantial role in providing agricultural extension support to developing nations across the world providing more than 1 billion dollars (USAID, 2012). While there can be a persuasive, logical discussion that the nation’s moral obligation is to provide support in the norm of extension and education in and about agriculture, there is also an ethical responsibility to not push products and services from large American organizations to these countries for purely profit reasons (Brown, 1981). The American agricultural education and extension service should strive to provide the best solutions that promote long term independence and sustainability to the development of these nations while honoring the indigenous knowledge of the communities alive. The challenge is: how?

Agricultural extension should not be fueled by personal agendas.
For effective extension in developing countries, America’s sincere intention and priority should be on bettering the livelihoods of the communities. As a nation, we cannot let our own agendas and self-interests dictate the support we provide to these countries (Brown, 1981). There is an interesting case study that leads insight to this with Kenya under British control. Before Britain realized the potential Kenya had as a strong tea leaf supplier, Kenya produced a wide variety of native fruits and vegetables that would sustain them throughout the year (Thurow & Kilman, 2009). However, Britain’s obsession with tea and the money involved in the markets forced Kenya to become a major supplier of tea leaves. In exchange for tea leaves, Britain would provide the Kenyan people with a food supply.

The manipulation by the British with Kenya indicated that Britain did not put Kenya’s interests first. Britain profited over the trade agreements with other countries for tea leaves and provided Kenya with a scarce, barely sustainable food supply. Kenyans lost their capacity to grow their own food as they were so dependent of Great Britain to provide their nourishment. Over time, the climate in Kenya changed, creating less and less optimal land to grow tea, which lead to a diminishing Great Britain’s food support. Currently, thousands of Kenyans do not receive the needed daily caloric intake for survival.

Agricultural extension must be aware of indigenous knowledge The lesson is that as a nation, we must learn the indigenous knowledge with the area that services are intended to be provided. The goal of any agricultural extension service cannot be to supplant native culture and replace it with American culture. As extension service agents, insights into the traditions and customs of a native community and look for ways of improving methods are essential (Brown, 1981).

Agricultural extension services must take a bottom up approach combined with indigenous knowledge to provide the most effective services. Agricultural extension agents who do this will go out into the community and discover the wants and desires of the community they are serving. These agents, who have a strong awareness of what is available to the communities (i.e. resources, inputs, markets) can tailor sustainable solutions to real community issues.

So, what can be done by the American agricultural extension service?
In developing nations access to premier seeds, chemicals, and markets is severely limited or unreliable. Giving farmers access to maximum yield seed and chemicals is immoral when there is no guarantee of being able to secure them the following year because of unstable connections to these suppliers.

One service that should be provided by every agricultural extension service is the creation of a Farmer’s Field School. Farmer’s field schools are tried and true in providing ways for farmers to seek problem resolution. A relevant example can be found in Indonesia. During the 1960’s, Indonesia faced a serious food crisis from reduced rice yields. During that time, Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were just taking shape to combat the White Stem Borer, an insect that affected the rice plant, and educated the farmers about the options available to them to combat the pest (Ooi, 1998). When the information taken from the FFS was effective, farmers were more than willing to share with their neighbors and the information spread.

American extension services need to take a planned approach when providing aid. While this brief article only describes one approach the extension service provides aid to developing countries, there are many more that can be considered. When providing services to areas of need, it is vitally important to tailor solutions that match the indigenous knowledge and needs of the community without nationalistic agenda’s influencing options.



Brown, L. (1981). Innovation Diffusion: A New Perspective. London, UK: Methuen Young Books.

Ooi, P. A. C. (1998). Beyond the Farmer Field School: IPM and Empowerment in Indonesia. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Gatekeeper Series No. 78. London. 16 pp. (Originally presented at the International Conference of IPM - Theory and Practice, Developing Sustainable Agriculture, Guangzhou, China June 15 - 20, 1998)

Thurow, T. & Kilman, S. (2009). Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.

United States Agency for International Development. (2012). Where does the money go?. Retrieved from