Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Days of School!!!

On the first day of school people, whether they admit it or not, always feel some sort of emotion towards it. Whether it is the excitement of the adventure of starting another year or dreading that alarm clock blaring that they know will come. I felt excited and anxious as it is my last first day of school as a student in the foreseeable future. How do I define myself after this year, since I have been a student for the majority of my life?

But I also saw the flip side as my teacher friends, new and seasoned, post facebook statuses about how excited they are for the first day of school and how ready they are to teach agriculture. Nicole Weaver from Twin Valley High School posted a status about starting her 10th year of teaching and expressed her excitement for the new school year but also thinking about her previous students that she has had and all the different stages of life they are in. Tons of previous students posted on it thanking her for being their Ag teacher and saying what they were doing that day. Some are starting grad school, some are going into teaching careers themselves and asking for advice. It is great to see how one person can affect so many people, and that it stays with them many years down the road.

Mike Woods at Cumberland Valley High School stated that he was excited about his new teaching partner, Darla Romberger who recently graduated from Penn State in Ag Ed. He also said that he is ready to keep helping their program grow and expand and continue to change lives through agricultural education.

Other teacher status yesterday on my newsfeed came from Kristy Brubaker who just graduated from Penn State this spring. She said that today was the best day of school that she has ever had, and is excited about the classroom and the students.

None of these teachers had anything negative to say and are excited about ‘creating positive agents of change’ which is a phrase commonly used in the Penn State Ag Ed Program. Seeing these other teachers' successes, makes me more excited about when my role will be reversed, and I will be standing in front of the classroom rather than behind the desk as a student.  I know that myself and the rest of the 2014 student teachers are up for the challenge that follows that first day of school and are ready to be Penn State Ag Ed ROCK STARS!

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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case


So what did I do this summer? Well there were many small things involved, but the big picture event was a semester of study abroad at EARTH University in Costa Rica. I just got home on Saturday from 4 months of being out of the country and am still processing all of the outstanding opportunities I was blessed with!

EARTH's cultural diversity was one of my favorite things.
This is from the Multicultural Fair that was held at the beginning of the summer... dances from all over, and amazing food!
The first time to ever use a machete... to cut down a whole plot of plantain plants!
EARTH University is an international private agricultural university, whereas the acronym EARTH stands for (translated from Spanish): agricultural education in the region of the humid tropics. This beautiful university, located on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica, is home to 400 students (over 4 years) who come from over 30 countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.  I was studying alongside students for one of their three trimesters and just got a snapshot of what it was like to be a student at this incredible institution. Students take every kind of agriculture class imaginable and also must complete a full-year business project, semester-long international internship, and graduation research project (similar to a thesis). They also have 2 days of work experience each week, in addition to their 4 days of classes with lab and field experience. It is definitely a “learning by doing” institution!!

Not a common PSU sight - sheep grazing on the lawn by the soccer field! 
So what did I do there? Well, firstly, I took the following courses to be used for PSU credit: tropical animal production, food security and world economy, community development work experience, mechanical skills (aka shop class), ecological basis for natural resource management, and an oral communication class. Within the first week of class, we were each assigned to maintain a 36 square meter plot of forages in my animal production class, got started on a semester-long project for my natural resources class, and were doing community diagnostics to prepare for working with rural, low income farmers (in my work experience).

Me and my 36 m2 forage plot for an animal production class!

Talking with our agricultural family after lunch one day in the community!

While I was able to gain a lot of new practical experiences (i.e. using a machete for the first time), I would say that the most beneficial component of my international experience was definitely the PEOPLE! God was faithful in providing a beautiful community for me at EARTH and I now have friends from all over the world – from Nigeria to Costa Rica, Mexico to Brazil, and several countries in between. I personally love cultural diversity, so I would often get excited when I realized that a group of X number of friends hanging out would represent X number of countries. Realizing the language diversity of EARTH is also so interesting to me! But let’s not forget to mention that my Spanish speaking skills greatly improved (even causing slight English speaking deterioration at times), as all of my classes were in Spanish!
My EARTH family - friends representing 8 different countries!!
So academic, cultural, and language development were up there on the beneficial experience list. But let’s not forget the travel opportunities! I had a few free weekends to travel around the gorgeous country of Costa Rica during my study abroad, only after a full week of vacations along the pacific coast with my parents (before the semester started). Traveling in Costa Rica included: carpooling, buses, taxis, rental cars, and walking... walking only because it was the means of crossing the Panama border when I needed to renew my passport visa! I was able to see gorgeous beaches in Guanacaste, go white water rafting with my natural resources class (best field trip ever), and spend a few weekends with my Turrialba families (from an immersion experience in Costa Rica last summer).

Favorite travel pic - gorgeous sunset in the Pacific

Thiago (Brazil) and Timothy (Nigeria) took me to some cool national parks!
While this experience was probably the best of my life, I won’t deny there weren’t some struggles. About half way through the summer, I was getting a bit homesick, but I think that was mainly exacerbated by the plethora of tropical bugs (like cockroaches in my dorm room – not a fan), humidity (some mold on my clothes) and class work stress. Spanish speaking language barriers were not too big of a problem for me, thanks to the previous Spanish speaking experience I had when living in Costa Rica last summer (and many years of high school Spanish). But in the end, the benefits and blessings of my time there were what will always remain – and without struggles, how will we grow?

So how can I conclude this incredible, life-changing experience? Well I don’t think I can ever conclude the friendships made, but I will leave you with some interesting numbers to ponder:
  • 17 weeks away from home
  • 29 hours a week of classes and work experience
  • 36 square meters of forages to plant and maintain
  • 14 cockroaches killed in my dorm room
  • 10 hand blisters
  • 1 parrot bite, 1 unknown rash, 1 bamboo splinter rash, 1 case of cold/bronchitis
  • 3 weekend trips to my Turrialba home
  • 2 weekend trips to the other side of the country (Guanacaste)
  • 1 semi-complicated trip to the Panama border
  • 2 overnight camping trips
  • Over 900 photos on my phone
  • Over 3,700 photos on my camera...
  • 10 visits to our rural agricultural community (El Triunfo)
  • Countless mosquito bites
  • Numerous unforgettable friendships
  • A lifetime of memories
If you want to learn more about my incredible experience and maybe see a bit more of EARTH university and its people, check out my blog from the summer!

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!

Allison Hoover
Guest Student Blogger
2014 Wellsboro HS Student Teacher
Twitter: @allihoov

Monday, August 26, 2013

Janae Herr as a National Collegiate Ag Ambassador

Janae Herr, a sophomore at Penn State, heard a lot about the National FFA Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador Program from Jill Gordon (2015 Student Teacher; @jillianpsu) and Dr. Foster (@FosterDanielD) as they flew to Arizona at the beginning of the summer for the domestic study tour of Agricultural Education programs in other states (Written about here:

Group picture outside of the Syngenta Crop Lab
After what seemed like the blink of an eye, Dr. Foster made plans for her to present to class of secondary Navajo students in Arizona and had her fill out the application for the Collegiate Ag Ambassador position on his iPad while they were on the trip. The application consisted of her resume, five short essay questions and a five minute YouTube video of her presenting to an audience, which she did at the Monument Valley High School where she gave the 10th grade Vet. Science class a lesson on why they should teach agriculture. After hearing back from National FFA, Janae was booking plane tickets and heading down to Greensboro, North Carolina!

Syngenta's new Greenhouse/ Crop Lab
they toured
In North Carolina, Janae was joined by 19 other Ag Ambassadors from across the nation. The National FFA Collegiate Agricultural Ambassador team has three corporate sponsors – Syngenta, BASF, and CSX. Syngenta’s headquarters are in Greensboro, NC which is where their training was held during the week.  The Ag Ambassadors four days of training included a lot of logistical discussions, greetings, presentations and networking from and with Syngenta staff. The ambassadors also had tours of Syngenta facilities, team-building activities and rigorous facilitation training from the National FFA staff. Despite all the hard work the Ambassadors had to put in, they still took a little downtime to watch the hometown Greensboro Grasshoppers play baseball.

As an Ambassador, Janae has to complete 30 hours of presentation time. The presentations can involve any part of the agricultural industry and to audiences of any demographic. During the training, the ambassadors were given some lesson plans to use in the presentation. The lesson plans had topics ranging from Food Safety to Advocating for Agriculture or Dairy to GMO’s as starters but they were also asked to design some of their own lessons to share with their teammates at the winter training in Jacksonville, FL with CSX. Janae is excited about getting started because she wants to positively reflect “an industry that has a very important story to tell.”

Syngenta employee round table discussion
about all things agriculture
Looking forward, Janae is excited for not only the professional development and networking opportunities that the team provides but also how this experience will make her a better advocate for the agricultural industry. She is thankful for all the resources that she has been given, which will help her out as she continues to peruse a career in Agricultural Education. Janae said that “that week in Greensboro was a fantastic and refreshing reminder to never stop desiring to learn new things”. She was also very happy to have walked away from the experience with 19 new friends and a lot more information about the agricultural industry!

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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting my intern on with Pennsylvania Farm Bureau!!

In front of the White House in DC
Hello everyone, I am Jeanne Case, 2014 student teacher and the 2013 Student Teach Ag! Blogger. This summer in addition to blogging and taking a summer English class, I was an intern at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for the Friends of Agriculture Foundation. I worked with the non-profit educational part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and had lots of projects such as developing the take home activity for Ag Progress Days and the game that the kids played on-site. I also helped out with the FACE youth conference which I posted a blog about earlier in the summer; Greg Peterson was the keynote speaker and talked about advocating for agriculture.

Agriculture in the Classroom was the other major conference that I helped run this summer at Penn State.  In addition to the projects with the Foundation I also got experience in the Member Relations Division. Attending the membership kick-off conference, working membership in my County and traveling around Adams County with a Regional Organization Director (ROD), kept me busy.  I was able to travel to Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg to see what our lobbyists do, as well as attend the Policy Development Kickoff meeting and the Commodity meetings with the third division, Government Relations.

A student at FACE conference
 giving a thumbs up
The FACE (Fueling Agriculture and Cultivating Excellence) conference was easily my favorite week at Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, even while working 27 hours of over-time! It was great to watch the students come in shy on Monday, then not want to leave all the friends they had made  when it was time for them to depart on Friday.  I was in charge of the Swine Commodity group with Brittany Courson, the Regional Organization Director. Our group was responsible for making a video and Facebook page to advocate for the swine industry. The students gained a new perspective; they do not typically need to explain the importance of their industry. The students also had to write bills to send in to the FACE version of the House of Representatives where they were discussed.

Some of the female employees at the FACE conference
The students in my group kept asking me where I was going to be student teaching and looked sad when I said Dover High School; none of them go there. I asked them for tips on how to be a good student teacher and they said to not make my students feel dumb. The students said it’s not good for the student teacher to talk over their heads and then get frustrated when the students don’t understand the lesson because the student teacher isn't explaining it well. I am also supposed to be strict…but not too strict, and BE EXCITING! If I don’t move around the classroom and instead just stay in one spot and am really boring the students won’t pay attention and will fall asleep. It was really great to hear that from a student’s perspective as I will try my best to not be boring in the classroom!

Attendees and volunteers at AITC
AITC, Agriculture in the Classroom is a conference for teachers to attend to get graduate program and/or ACT 48 credits. It is a whole week focused on different aspects of agriculture ranging from mushrooms, to livestock, to trees, gardens and bio-energy, to name a few. Teachers from across the state attend, teaching a variety of subjects and ages. This was a super great experience, to be able to meet such as diversity of teachers. A math teacher told me to incorporate music into my classroom, for instance to not call on someone until a song or music clip is done so the students will have more opportunity to think and form an answer. Or to have a sound clip on almost every slide to act as an attention grabber and make the students pay closer attention to what is on a screen. Music can also be used as a reward if the students are working well on something – and it can be taken away as a punishment.

When I traveled around with Owen Weikert, the Region 3 Regional Organization Director, all day in Adams County, I saw a lot of aspects of agriculture that I was not previously knowledgeable about. I was able to tour an apple orchard.  This orchard provides most of the apple tree starts on the east coast, stretching even to Michigan. I had no clue that you could not plant apple seeds and that you had to graft the variety you wanted on root stock. My student teaching school students have an apple judging day;  it is good that I will at least have a little background knowledge! I also got to tour a dairy farm and see their milking parlor, as well as look at Mason Dixon Dairy. During the meeting in the evening I got to meet a lot of farmers in the area and even met a woman who writes about agriculture for different publications; I am sure she will be a very good contact in the future.

Interns with a PSU Alumni
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau also treated their interns very well. One benefit was to spend a night in Washington, DC. While we were there we met with all of our congressmen as well as a senior policy person in the senate, (who is a Penn State Ag Sciences Alumna). Going to all the meetings we walked  or rode trains in tunnels underneath the buildings, even to the capital, making it very hard to keep my bearings. I know that I would not have ever been able to experience anything like this if it wasn't for PFB. To wrap up the trip we went to the American Farm Bureau office and got a tour of their facilities and met a lot of important people. Unfortunately their internships are not paid, but even so, that still may be a great experience/opportunity for next summer!

Interns on the Capitol steps in Harrisburg
Harrisburg was great to see, as so many of the governmental  issues that directly affect our farmers begin there. We got to meet another Penn State College of Ag Science alumni who helps to make sure the voting members know about agriculture. We talked about her position and the different issues she deals with on a daily basis. It was also great to just tour the capitol since I had not been there since 4th grade and it truly is a beautiful building, something that Pennsylvania should definitely be proud of. 

All in all this was a great internship experience. I went into it thinking that I knew what to expect as I have known multiple people who had gone through the program before, but it really reached above and beyond those expectations. The experience I got, and the connections I made are truly irreplaceable. Everyone that I worked with was really helpful and wanted to watch us interns succeed in our lives. I know that they are sad to see us leave, but also happy that there are three women that are just starting to enter the workforce with a strong passion for agriculture.
Interns in front of the building. Thank you PFB!
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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case

Gaining Global Competency and Applied Research Skills: Bryanna Kenno's European Adventure

Study abroad group in the English Gardens in Munich, Germany
Bryanna Kenno, a junior at Penn State, was chosen to help Laura Rice (@laurasankeyrice) this summer with her Ph.D dissertation work in Sweden. She was recommended for the position by Dr. Foster, her adviser. Bryanna was eligible for the position because she is majoring in Agricultural Extension and Education with a minor in International Agriculture, as well her good grades and involvement in extracurricular activities. Bryanna fit the bill perfectly and was ready to travel to Europe.

To get to Europe, Bryanna traveled with a group of eight students and two adults from Penn State Altoona as they made their way to Germany for a short term study abroad experience. Bryanna arrived in Germany in early May to complete the short course study abroad, and then left the group to travel to Sweden by herself. Bryanna stayed in Sweden for about three weeks and said that that travel experience was definitely different, as she had to deal with delay or gate changes which can be scary in a foreign airport alone.

Group representing Penn State at the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch, Germany
When she was in Germany with the Altoona group, the study abroad class focused on agricultural production systems. The class got to tour three dairy farms, the Ritter-Sport chocolate factory, a brewery, a winery and vineyard, a German McDonald’s, and the Viktualien Market in Munich. Sweden didn't have as many sightseeing opportunities but Bryanna spent a few days exploring the city of Uppsala then joined Laura to tour the Viking Burial Grounds. She and Laura also went to the coast of the Baltic Sea with a couple that Laura had met at the University.

Besides traveling across Europe, Bryanna also did some work while she was there. Bryanna helped Laura research effective instruction in post-secondary agriculture courses, specifically working to develop operational definitions of teaching practices of award winning agricultural educators at Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences ( She accompanied Laura to interviews with faculty, entered data into spreadsheets and completed a review of literature. Bryanna was able to work with faculty members and students of the college.
Viking Burial Grounds in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden. Grounds date back to the 1500's and Vikings were usually cremated and buried in a tomb underneath the mounds. 
With a more globalized view on agriculture, Bryanna said that the traveling she did and her research experience has impacted her as a future educator in numerous ways. She had the opportunity to experience agricultural systems in Germany and interact and discuss agriculture with students her age from both countries --- students from Hohenheim University in Germany and students from SLU in Sweden. When she got home she felt a sense of reassurance and knew that entering the field of agricultural education was the right decision. In both Germany and Sweden their secondary schools don’t have agricultural education classes and the students that Bryanna met were amazed that so many American high schools offer agricultural programs. This made her appreciate agricultural programs and FFA in a whole new way. “I also knew that I made a great decision by conducting undergraduate research involving agricultural education because the field means so much to me. I want to leave a lasting impact on my future students and all of my experiences in Europe will allow me to do this.”

Bryanna starts undergraduate research in the fall that will partially stem off of Laura’s work from this summer. She will be researching how student’s evaluations of classes in the College of Agricultural Sciences affect the way professors teach the classes in the future.

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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case

Meet NAAE Intern (and new PSU M.S. Student) Amanda Forstater!

Amanda Forstater a new grad student at PSU

Amanda Forstar, an avid horse lover and NAAE (National Association of Agricultural Educators) intern, enjoyed her time interning in Kentucky this summer. She found the internship on the NAAE website and applied in December 2012. Her application included a letter of interest, resume, three letters of reference and a portfolio of writing examples to show her skills and experience in communications.  Amanda was a Student Assistant for the New York Ag in the Classroom last year and used articles that she had written for that position. After submitting her application, she had to wait for NAAE to pick applicants for phone interviews in February/March. A few weeks later Amanda was informed that she was chosen to be one of the two Communications interns.

Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville
that the interns visited on a weekend trip
Throughout her internship, Amanda was responsible for reading the agricultural teacher award applications and writing the press releases for the state and regional award winners. She gained experience using PowerPoint and Prezi as she made scripts and presentations for the National NAAE Convention, created the National Teach Ag Campaign invitations for the National Teach Ag Day event and edited the NAAE website as well as other projects. She shared the responsibility with the other intern in regards to updating NAAE’s social media updates on Twitter and Facebook. The two interns may also have the chance to help out at the Teachers’ World during the National FFA convention and they are helping out at the National NAAE Convention in December, which Amanda is excited about as she will be able to meet the teachers she wrote about all summer.

Amanda learned a lot during her internship, from gaining experience in Photoshop, editing websites and learning about new social media outlets -- she had never used Twitter before this internship. Amanda believes the greatest thing she gained from her internship was all the networking opportunities. NAAE is located at the University of Kentucky and she was able to talk to all the professors on a daily basis and hear about their experiences from different outlets in the agricultural education realm.  CASE teachers were around to share their experiences as college students and teachers which gave Amanda a motivating and realistic point of view.

Churchill Downs racetrack that the interns visited a couple of times. 
Through reading all of the award applications Amanda learned a lot about programs all over the country in both rural and urban areas, which lead to brainstorming sessions for her and the other intern.  The interns talked about ideas and different things they could do in their future programs. They were able to find ideas for their future programs everywhere – driving past a tobacco field, visiting a brewery, seeing a horse farm, and visiting the Louisville slugger factory. Amanda really enjoyed being surrounded by people who were directly involved with agriculture! She said “I learned so much from everyone I met and I think it was those personal contacts I’ve forged that will continue to impact me the most.”

Amanda is very happy and satisfied with her internship experience and thinks that it was a great transition for her as she finishes her time at Cornell as an undergraduate and transitions to Penn State as a graduate student this fall.  She is excited to be part of the 2015 Student Teaching Cohort at Penn State!

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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013 Teach Ag! Society Essay Event Results

Austin Young
 and 2013 student teacher Mackenzie McCollum
The Teach Ag! Society essay contest has been a part of the Pennsylvania State FFA Convention for the past four years. Students entering the contest must plan, design, and teach a lesson about agriculture to an agricultural class of their choice. Their teacher helps them with their lesson plan and guides them along the process of being a teacher for a class. The student then has to write an essay about their experiences during the process. To enter the contest the student submits their essay, lesson plan and pictures, which are graded by a group of selected individuals at Penn State. The top four contestants are announced before the State Convention registration then the final placing is announced at the Pennsylvania State Convention in June.

Facilitators at the Wii Night after the announcement of the winners
This past June, the contest saw a record number of participants with 45 applications sent in. Meagan Slates, Presidents of the Teach Ag! Society, was in charge of the essay contest this year. She comments that “A lot of the feedback that was given in the essays was that the students really looked up to their teachers and wanted to give it a try. I was surprised at the repeat number of participants from last year. With the help of their teachers most of the students really enjoyed teaching a class. All the students essays were great and choosing a winner was really difficult!” Meagan is a senior in Agriculture Education and as she enjoys advocating for agricultural education, she thinks that getting students excited about teaching is really important.

Some of the students entered the essay contest because they wanted the experience teaching or they wanted to see what it felt like to be in their teachers shoes. Regardless of the reason the students entered the contest, they definitely learned a lot about the teaching process.

Austin Young teaching the class
Austin Young, from Central Columbia High School is the first place winner this year. This is an excerpt from his winning essay:

“Agricultural education is vital to our nation’s youth because it teaches students 21st century thinking skills which will aid them in being more employable in today’s increasingly competitive career market. In order for one to realize how agriculture affects every facet of society, agricultural literacy at an early age is essential. That is why society needs innovative, agricultural educators within our school systems.” 

Austin said that entering the contest gave him an opportunity to explore the career and was supported by his teachers Mr. Doug Brown, Mr. Curtis Turner, and his student teacher at the time Ms Mackenzie McCollum. Winning, he said has “reassured me that the career of being an Ag educator is one of the most important jobs in a society that would not be able to make it through one day without agriculture.” He also pointed out again that there is a shortage of agricultural educators nationwide and the need for Ag educators is more important now than ever. “ That is why this contest is so important. It gives students the opportunity to see what it is like to be an agricultural educator, which will hopefully propel them into a career of teaching America’s youth about agriculture.”

Katie McLaughlin and Victoria Herr in their
Teach Ag! shirts from the essay contest.
Victoria Herr, a senior at Penn Mannor High School, entered the contest because she wants to be an agricultural teacher some day. She thought that by entering the contest she would get a good feel for what being a teacher requires from an individual. “This contest taught me a lot about the skills needed to be a teacher such as writing good lesson plans, keeping the students engaged, and being prepared to answer any questions they may have. It also taught me that not all students are on the same learning level and as an ag teacher you must ensure that everyone is following along at a good pace for themselves”. 

Another student, Katie McLaughlin from Juniata High School entered the contest because at one point she had wanted to be an agricultural teach but her plans have changed. Although Katie will not be a teacher she will “always be teaching in the form of avocation.” Katie also said that the contest taught her a lot about what agricultural teachers do. Her teacher at Juniata is a part of a one teacher program with 110 kids to keep track of. She also has 11 different classes to teach in an 8 period day, all with different lesson plans. “I believe all teachers face challenges and we as students need to realize that our teachers truly want what is best for us. The essay made me realize how much Mrs. Morgan cares and it taught me to say thank you for everything she has done for our program.”

The top four winners of this years event were:
1st Place Austin Young, Central Columbia HS,
2nd place Amber Gabel, Newport High School,
3rd Place Lisa Boltz, Northern Lebanon High School, and
4th Place Victoria Daltroff, North West Area High School.

Meagan Slates wishes to continue increasing the contests and hopes to break the 45 entry record next year. Please keep an eye out to be ready to participate and apply next year! The Nation Needs You!

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!

Jeanne Case
Student Blogger
2014 Dover HS Student Teacher
Twitter: JRose_Case

Friday, August 2, 2013

Helping Others to Help Ourselves: A Summer of #agedu Impact in Nyeri, Kenya

[Editor's Note: Jenna Moser is a Penn State Agricultural and Extension Education Major and a 2015 Teacher Candidate who recently spent the summer in Nyeri, Kenya with the Children Youth Empowerment Centre. This is her story]

The ability to change one’s life is not something to be taken lightly.  It is something that we all have and each and every one of us should conduct ourselves with dignity and compassion.

Jenna on her journey to Mount Kenya
(directly behind her)
I am entering my junior year of college majoring in Agriculture Education with a minor in International Agriculture.  My goal is to complete my degree in 2015 and then become involved with a global oriented company and help to teach sustainable agriculture practices to rural farmers (the people who I believe to have the ultimate power in ridding our world’s hunger crisis).  After many years abroad, I hope to return to the United States and serve as a high school agriculture educator.  I want to instill the notion in my students that there is a need for them in this world, and they can make a difference - especially in the agriculture sector.  As a result of my ambitions it made perfect sense for me to enroll in the class that enabled me to study abroad in Kenya.

 Showing a rabbit how to use
the newly replicated rabbit watere
On May 9th I boarded a plane in Philadelphia and flew well over fifteen hours to arrive in Kenya to participate in a three week Community Environment Development class offered by Penn State University.  My foresight told me that three weeks would not be enough time, so I was granted permission to stay three months until August 6th.  During the past few months, I stayed at the Children Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC) in Nyeri.  Essentially, it is a place for children whose parents are either not in the picture or have insufficient funds to provide for basic needs.  These children are brought to the centre with the little if any belongings they have and for the most part have their needs met.  For instance they have food, they all have a toothbrush, they have at least one school uniform, they have space to play with their toy balls cleverly made of grocery bags rolled into one another, they have a strip of foam for their mattress where they can peacefully lay down their heads every night.  These children have literally the most basic things they need, and they are the happiest people I have ever met.

Having fun at a field day at the centre. 
The group that I led named themselves “Team Power”

While I enjoy playing games with the youth and telling them what my sweet mother tells me every night “I love you.  Have sweet happy dreams.  Have a good day at school tomorrow.  I will see you kesho (tomorrow in Swahili).”  I acknowledge that I came to the CYEC to help work with the agriculture component of the centre.  The centre is called “Empowerment Centre” because like a career and technical school in the states, it has several technical components that the youth are encouraged to engage in.  These components are working in a metal shop, wood shop, tailoring room, doing arts such as painting and making jewelry, making charcoal briquettes, and doing agriculture work with the livestock (goats, one cow and one calf, rabbits, and chickens) and working in the shamba (garden) where they grow sukuma wiki (kale), maize, carrots, tomatoes, onions, and much much more. 
Learning how to use a scythe to cut grass for hay; One of the youth enterprises offered at the CYEC and several youth have traveled to many places to make hay and teach others how to. 

As soon as I was exposed to the programs at the centre, I tried to think of how I could be the most beneficial to the agriculture program.  While I did want to be engaged with the “hands on” work of rolling up my sleeves and tilling the soil with a hoe and carrying buckets of water to the animals, I had to constantly remind myself of what is the most sustainable thing for the centre.  I had the realization several times that me doing the work now, could easily translate into no one doing the work when I leave.  So my approach became to work with people one on one and over the course of several days or several weeks teach them different practices, watch them do the work, and then offer my advice.  With this tactic, I was able to successfully implement composting (where there are collection buckets in several parts of the centre), have youth work with the adult in the metal shop to replicate rabbit waterers to ensure the availability of water at all times to the rabbits, I explained the importance of castrating the Holstein calf (especially since the livestock pens are not always shut and there are small children always running around) and performed the operation explaining each part along the way, occasionally I would worked with a jembe (machete) to cut grass for fodder for the livestock, and the most important thing that I did was Teach Ag

Cleaning out the space for composting with youth from the CYEC
Working with the head person in the agriculture department we discussed that it would be really beneficial if there was an “Ag Day” at the centre. Simply because the youth see that there are animals and crops, but they do not know how to properly treat them and there is a misconception in developing countries that agriculture is only farming and that it is a “poor man’s job.” That conception is only true for the uneducated and my goal is to change it. I facilitated the first workshop with the older youth where I began asking them to all write down their definition of agriculture. For the most part their responses seemed to be all carbon copied as they dictated the definition ingrained in them during school of “Agriculture is the growing of crops and rearing of livestock.” While this is certainly a component of agriculture, it does not sum up the vastness of this industry.

After that we played games and did puzzles that visually showed: 1) The definition of agriculture, 2) The careers and opportunities offered through the industry, 3) Why they should care about agriculture (I related this to the hunger crisis and shared how critical it is for them to be aware), and 4) Agriculture at the CYEC.
Composting buckets and signs were ready to be implemented

At the conclusion of the workshop, I asked everyone to answer the following questions: 1) Did your view change on agriculture? And 2) Are you interested in agriculture? Why or Why Not? Nearly every student said that they were interested in agriculture and one 14 year old girl said “I’m interested in agriculture. Yes because agriculture help the farmer to raise living standards by providing enough food for me family and nation.” Another response from an 11 year old boy was “I am happy because your advice have made me to love agriculture. I love your lesson.” Reading through the responses of the over forty youth was rewarding in the fact that they were able to start the process of comprehending why agriculture is so essential. Following the lesson, I was able to choose a few older youth and worked with them over the course of a week to guide them in creating and presenting their own lesson to the younger youth. They came up with their own materials and explanations about why agriculture is important and their lesson was a success. There is something very gratifying about teaching agriculture and there is something even more fulfilling about teaching others to teach ag.

The ripple effect is monumental. 

Jenna after reaching the top of Mount Kenya (4985 meters above sea level)
after several days of hiking
My short three months in Kenya has flown by and I am leaving with painfully realistic questions of “Did I do enough?”  “Who will tell the precious children sweet dreams?”  “Will I ever see the youth again who have called me their “dada” (sister)?”  “Why is there even a need for a children’s home – shouldn’t parents or family want and be prepared to take care of their children?” 

It is my hopes that these children never lose their sense of compassion and will one day realize that they changed my life.

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!

Jenna Moser
Guest Student Blogger
2015 Teacher Candidate
Twitter: @JennaLeeMoser