Saturday, May 17, 2014

2nd Annual Teach Ag! Society Domestic Study Away - #TeachAgDSA14 - Day 4: Thrill of Accomplishment

Editor's Note: During our 8 day adventure with 14 teacher candidates and 2 chaperones, we will have two guest bloggers share their observations every day!

Throughout the week, the group has been involved in numerous amazing tours and meetings with Ag Educators across Colorado. Today was a completely different type of experience that generated much excitement in the group! Our group of Penn State Teach Ag! students would be helping with a service learning project to build community gardens for the Monarch K-8 school. We were given directions prior to the start of the day to have background on the building and situation of the school. These community gardens were being put in because of a grant from the USDA Farm to School Program that was obtained by the teacher at Boulder Valley Tech School, Heather Riffel. We would be helping put in the gardens, and then plant different flowers and vegetables for the students to maintain throughout the summer.

When we got to the school, everyone was excited and ready to take on this task. Everyone knew what needed to be done, and the last addition to the exciting education mix was the  7th & 8th grade students from Monarch. They busted out of the door and excitedly ran to us. We broke into groups with the first task of determining garden bed placement.  There were a few students who jumped up right away and came up with an awesome idea of putting all of the gardens into an "M" shape that would represent the Monarch school. Witnessing this display of student ownership and student voice happening in real time was eye opening, because the students wanted to invest their own time and effort into this project. They wanted to own it, and that's what made it so important for them to make their own decisions. Once the idea was accepted, we laid the raised beds into the M shape which looked great.

Working through the day, we cycled in different classes and grades of students. Our Penn State Teach Ag! group worked with 4th, 7th, and 8th grade students from Monarch. All of the students were motivated to work and it was very easy to complete the gardens. Along side of us were the high school agriscience students from Boulder Valley Tec. They were the experts who knew the ins and outs of the raised beds. They also calculated and created the drip line irrigation system. It was a simple, practical, and efficient system which impressed the Penn State students the most.

We started the morning with no raised beds in the small area we had, but by the end of the day there were six raised beds planted with numerous plants and flowers, with a working irrigation system. The transformation was indescribable to someone who was not there. The whole day was a total success and so many students were impacted by taking ownership of the gardens and getting their hands dirty.

From a future educator's perspective, we couldn't believe how amazing the day turned out. We had so much fun and the benefits that service learning could provide to any class, not just an Agriculture based one. The day was the very end of the long process that the teachers had to go through to get everything in place and complete all the behind the scene work that was crucial to everything else running smoothly. Our Penn State Teach Ag! students enjoyed the day and the impact that we made on the school and community. This day was by far the best one experienced so far. Everyone left that school with a better outlook on agriculture and creating a sense of community.

We are so thankful to have the support of great partners like the CHS Foundation and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences that helped make this co-curricular learning opportunity a reality.


Written by:
Mike Petrun
2014 Penn State Teach Ag Graduate

Tyler Cremeans
2014 Penn State Teach Ag Graduate

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